Mets Present Lefty Eric Niesen With Bullpen Audition

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—Eric Niesen has started 61 of the 63 professional games in which he's pitched, but he's getting a look in big league camp as lefthanded reliever to complement Pedro Feliciano.

Working out of the bullpen is a familiar role for Niesen.

"When I got to college, I was mainly used as a late-inning, end-of-the-game guy," said Niesen, a third-round pick in 2007 from Wake Forest. "For me, I was really good at that because of the way I am with adrenaline. I'm aggressive."

Niesen, 24, was limited to four appearances in the Arizona Fall League because of an oblique injury, but that's now a non-issue.

He split last year's regular season between high Class A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, going 3-1, 2.40 in his final seven starts with the B-Mets after initially struggling upon promotion.

"When I got to Double-A, I tried to do too much and tried to nitpick," Niesen said. "For me, as a pitcher, I found out with the way my fastball moves, I have to pitch more toward the middle of the plate instead of trying to be a Greg Maddux, who could pick anything.

"Me, at this point, I just have to use the middle of the plate and let my ball run out there. I was last year kind of finding out more about myself. Now I understand more what I need to be successful."

Niesen's fastball sits between 88-92 mph, tops out at 94 and features good arm-side run. He feels his biggest strides recently have come with his changeup.

"I had been messing with a lot of changeup grips. Couldn't find it. Couldn't find it. Still threw it a little hard," Niesen said. "I just kept tinkering with it playing catch. I finally found one toward the end of the season.

"And then the Fall League, even though I had limited innings there, I finally felt comfortable. And now I've got that changeup to where I want it."


• After finishing second in the Venezuelan League with a .381 average, Josh Thole spent January in Dallas, working with Mets catching instructor Bob Natal.

• The Mets signed lefty Hisanori Takahashi to a minor league deal. A 10-year veteran of Japan's Yomiuri Giants, the 35-year-old went 10-6, 2.94 last season while striking out 126 and walking 36 in 144 innings. New York also had veteran Japanese righty reliever Ryota Igarishi in camp on a big league deal.