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.
MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports that Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug Stanozolol.
In a statement, via Dan Hayes of The Athletic, Polanco denied knowingly using the substance. Polanco said, “To be clear, I did not intentionally consume this steroid. I now know, however, that my intention alone is not a good enough excuse and I will pay the price for my error in judgment. The substance that I requested from my athletic trainer in the Dominican Republic and consented to take was a combination of vitamin B12 and an iron supplement, something that is not unusual or illegal for professional athletes to take. Unfortunately, what I was given was not that supplement and I take full responsibility for what is in my body.”
Last year was Polanco’s first full season in the majors. He hit .256/.313/.410 with 13 home runs, 74 RBI, 60 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 544 plate appearances.
The Twins have Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza, or Erick Aybar to handle shortstop while Polanco is out. The club could also give the starting job to prospect Nick Gordon, ranked No. 4 in the Twins’ system according to MLB Pipeline. Gordon had a solid 2017 campaign at Double-A Chattanooga, posting a .749 OPS with 29 doubles and 13 steals in 578 PA.