Niese fights through two innings in spring debut

Pirates lefty gives up four runs in first start with team

Niese fights through two innings in spring debut

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The first inning of Jon Niese's Pirates debut couldn't have gone more smoothly. Three up, three down and he barely had to break a sweat.

Niese's next inning gave the Pirates their first look at his ability to overcome things he can't control. The left-hander gave up four runs on five hits and a walk, derailed by a costly defensive misplay and a few questionable calls in the Bucs' 10-8 loss to the Blue Jays at McKechnie Field.

"Overall, I felt pretty good," Niese said. "There's a lot of things out there that are out of my control, but I fought through it."

• Niese makes first start in Pirates uniform

Niese, acquired from the Mets in December in exchange for Neil Walker, recorded two quick outs to start the second inning. He gave up consecutive singles to center field, then Matt Dominguez hit a slow roller toward third baseman Jason Rogers.

Rogers couldn't pick up the ball with his bare hand, allowing the Blue Jays to load the bases. Humberto Quintero smacked a single to shortstop Jordy Mercer, driving in one run. Niese walked in another, though he thought he struck out Ryan Goins before the home-plate umpire called ball four.

Niese gave up a two-run single to Michael Saunders before striking out Chris Colabello to end the inning.

"I loved the way Jon attacked the zone," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I actually felt two pitches got called wrong, would have spun the whole inning for him."

It's early in Spring Training, far from the proper time to judge any pitcher based on the results on the field. So a long inning like the second might seem even more interminable this time of year.

"Any time innings get extended, it kind of wears on you, especially this early," Niese said. "It gets easier as the spring goes [on] to fight through those innings. When the innings get extended, you get fatigued. You start to leave balls up, and that's when stuff snowballs."

When he got out of the inning, Niese walked off the mound shaking his head.

"He's focused, and he's intense," Hurdle said. "The fact that he didn't get outside himself when he didn't get the calls, and I asked (catcher Elias Diaz) and the catcher said, 'No, we had pitches we should have had [called strikes].' He's in. He's been in since he got here."

The Pirates brought in Niese, who had spent his entire career with the Mets, to solidify the middle of their rotation behind Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano.

Niese admitted it initially felt strange to report to Spring Training with a team other than the Mets, but that feeling faded when he toed the rubber Thursday afternoon.

"Still a work in progress. [Pitching coach Ray Searage] and I have been working great. Still getting to know the catchers, but that's what spring is for," Niese said. "We're going to get there. We're going to work at it and get to know each other a lot better."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.