"I'm really fortunate to be part of this organization," Niese said. "It's probably one of the most successful franchises in history, so I'm proud to wear the uniform.
"With the Mets, they treated me well there. I had a lot of good years, made a lot of great friends. I have nothing but great things to say about that organization, but just like every ballplayer, sometimes you've just got to move on. Careers go in different directions."
The Yanks have Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino and Adam Warren competing for spots in the rotation, with some of those candidates likely to wind up in the bullpen.
"As of right now, we're not looking at [Niese] as a starter," Girardi said. "We have the five guys kind of vying for two spots. We would look at him as more long and short. … He could give you distance or short relief, left-on-left if you needed it on certain days. We think that he could possibly be very versatile down there for us in a lot of different situations."
Niese's contract permits him to opt out at the end of Spring Training. The 30-year-old was drafted by and has spent almost all of his career with the Mets, who traded him to the Pirates last offseason in a deal that brought second baseman Neil Walker to New York.
After struggling in Pittsburgh, going 8-6 with a 4.91 ERA in 23 games (18 starts), Niese was traded back to the Mets on Aug. 1. He pitched in six games for the Mets before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee in late August.
"I thought last year started off pretty well, and then obviously I had this knee issue that kind of lingered," Niese said. "It just kept getting worse, and I tried to pitch through it. Finally, I just had to shut it down, because I wasn't being productive with it."
Niese said that he has been throwing off a mound since January and that waiting until late February to find an organization was "kind of hectic."
"I had to calm my wife down a little bit at times," Niese said. "I'm a patient guy, so I knew something was going to happen eventually. I really wasn't worried, but I definitely would have liked something done a little earlier."