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.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.