Cutter location hurts Niese in second start

Cutter location hurts Niese in second start

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jon Niese's rough start to spring continued on Tuesday.

The Pirates' left-hander surrendered a long two-run homer to Darin Ruf in the first inning against the Phillies in a 4-2 loss that saw him pitch three frames of four-run ball. He hit one batter, walked another two and allowed two hits.

"I fought through it," Niese said. "Right now, I'm not really worried about the results. I'm just worried about the process, getting the volume. It'll come. The results will be there."

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Niese said he was throwing each pitch in his repertoire, but that he didn't have his best stuff, particularly in his two-seam fastball. Additionally, he had trouble locating his cutter, but he did feel his offspeed pitches were coming along.

"I felt pretty good with my changeup at the end and felt like I used that pretty well," Niese said. "My curveball is getting a lot better."

With one out in the first, Niese surrendered a walk to Peter Bourjos. He battled back against Maikel Franco, forcing a flyout to center, but Ruf took Niese's cutter deep to left field -- albeit with the wind blowing in that direction -- and over the wall.

"I told him when I got on first base that I'm never throwing it to him again," Niese joked. "He punishes me every time I throw it to him. If I throw him a good cutter, he can't handle it. But if I make a mistake with it, he's a good hitter -- he's going to hit it out.

"Just have to be weary of staying focused out there on every pitch and executing."

Carlos Ruiz flied out to right to end the inning, but the second didn't go much better.

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With one out, Niese hit a batter and surrendered a walk before Cesar Hernandez ripped a triple to center, scoring two more runs. Niese then forced a fielder's choice and a flyout to get out of the second.

Niese finally settled in during the third, recording a perfect inning.

Of the nine outs that Niese recorded, four were by way of the fly ball while just two were on grounders. In Niese's previous outing, which saw him give up four runs to the Blue Jays last Thursday, he was able to induce just one ground-ball out in two innings.

"Execute pitches in the bottom of the zone," Niese said of the solution. "I really wasn't living there today. I wasn't able to locate my two-seam fastball, and my cutter, which are normally the pitches I can get the ground ball with."

Added manager Clint Hurdle: "We're going to continue to sit back and encourage Jon just to transition. There's a lot going on for a player that gets traded. For me right now, he's kind of over-competing. He wants to do well."

Greg Zeck is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.