Jon Niese throws, feels “very close to 100 percent”

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Jon Niese saw his first game action since undergoing an MRI exam on his sore shoulder last week, throwing two innings in a Mets intrasquad game today.

And he seemed very happy with how things went, telling Adam Rubin of ESPN New York:

I felt great. It’s a great feeling to go out there and not feel any pain in your shoulder. It was a great step forward to go out on the mound and feel very close to 100 percent.

That’s a big relief, especially considering Niese also had shoulder problems last season. Niese is still hoping to be ready for Opening Day, although he has quite a few hurdles to clear before then after throwing just 35 pitches in what the Mets called “a controlled game” today.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.