"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."