Jon Niese focusing on conditioning after struggling with fatigue as a rookie

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Jon Niese arrived at spring training about a week before pitchers and catchers were due at Mets camp and told Dan Martin of the New York Post that his goal is to improve his conditioning after tiring down the stretch as a rookie last year:

Last year, I kind of got fatigued. I don’t think I hit a wall. It was one of those things that I felt good before and after games and even during games in the first part, but in later innings, I felt myself get fatigued a little bit. I think I’ll try to condition myself better. Maybe not throw as much or have it more controlled and that will help going deeper.

Niese carried a 3.33 ERA into mid-August, but then went 1-6 with a 7.57 ERA in his final seven starts to finish at 9-10 with a 4.20 ERA in 174 innings overall. He also struggled to go deep into his starts all season, as opponents batted .322 with a .940 OPS off Niese after his 75th pitch. Of course, durability and going through a lineup for the third time are things most 23-year-old rookies have trouble with, and Niese looks like a very nice second or third starter long term.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.