Never did Niese guess he would be back in New York seven months later, forced to relive his words.
"I know my teammates, and I think they knew what I meant by what I said," Niese said. "I really didn't mean to criticize the Mets' defense. All I really said was that I was excited to pitch in front of the Pirates' defense. It's unfortunate the way it got turned around, because it's certainly not what I meant by it. I've talked to a lot of the guys in the clubhouse, and they respect me and I respect them. I've always loved them from the first time that I've played with them."
The first time was way back in 2008, when Niese debuted for a Mets organization that ultimately signed him to a long-term contract. Rich with pitching, the Mets dealt Niese to the Pirates last December, before reacquiring him Monday in a deal for lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo.
Niese will pitch initially in relief, with a chance to start some games down the stretch.
"Right now, the job is to come out of the bullpen," manager Terry Collins said of Niese, who held a 4.91 ERA in Pittsburgh, starting 18 games and appearing as a reliever in five. "As I told Jon, there's no telling right now that there could be possibly a start at some time. We're kind of committed right now to what we have in place, but just be ready."
The humorous twist to Niese's return is that after his trade to the Pirates, he sublet his apartment to Walker, who was looking for a place to live. Niese laughed about the arrangement Tuesday, saying he has no plans to kick Walker to the curb.
"Knowing the type of guy Neil is," Niese said, "I highly doubt that he's trashed it."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.