Niese Locked In

Niese looks ahead to a strong summer

Jonathon Niese, the top pitching prospect in the Mets farm system, leads the way as the ace for Double-A Binghamton. After pitching through a volatile first ten weeks of the season, the 21-year-old, armed with a solidifying repertoire, is now feeling as strong as any point during the year and is ready for a stellar second half.

[Photo by Kate Kredo]

"I think things are going well. My arm feels really good, I'm staying healthy and getting my innings in. At the least, that's all I can ask for,' said Jonathon Niese as he explained his opinion on the first half of the season.

All the Mets and their fans can ask for is the continued progression of not only the system's top left-hander, but its most promising pitcher.

With the newfound attention came the expectations that he could elevate his game to its next level. Niese, whose fastball sits in the low-90s, brings an atypical combination of pitches to the mound as he boasts two different curveballs along with his changeup. As his curveball remained a reliable go-to out-pitch, he knew it would be his changeup that would dictate how far his game would grow this year.

" I really think my changeup has come along better than anything. [Binghamton pitching coach] Ricky [Bones] and I have been progressively focusing on the pitch more and more as the year has gone on. I think that has helped more than anything," he said. "It's the pitch that has allowed me to open up my game a lot more this year."

To reach the maturity coaches and scouts alike had hoped, opening up his game was imperative, not just by expanding the consistency of his repertoire but the means in which attacked hitters. In St. Lucie, Niese had the ability to work over the opposition with his two primary pitches and stay with what felt comfortable when behind in the count.

Such luxury is not there for him in Double-A which forces to him adjust and trust his ability to execute his secondary pitches when behind in the count.

"I've really changed in some ways, trying new things in different counts and challenging hitters in hitter's counts, that's all part of maturing as I came up to a higher level," he said.

"Last year, I probably wouldn't have challenged a guy with an off-speed pitch when behind in the count, but now I work so much on getting command of those off-speed pitches that I have to throw those pitches when I'm behind."

The new pitching pattern emphasized his further need to calculate while on the mound. Against the deeper, more skilled lineups of the Eastern League, he could not just rear back and throw but understood how one's focus can dictate a large percentage of success. For Niese, that element to his game, more than any other, symbolizes the next step in his climb towards the big leagues.

"The hitters are much better here, that's the biggest difference between the two levels. There is lot of things I could get away with in St. Lucie that I can't away with here which means I have to pitch smarter," he explained.

"As far as the mental aspect of the game, pitching smart is where it begins. When I do that, combined with my health and staying in shape, everything really stays sharp. My focus is something that I struggled with in past years, but now I think I'm staying locked in on executing my pitches. Now it's about staying in that approach while developing my pitches—that's the most important thing."

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