"It's been that way for probably a month and a half now," said Niese, who expects to start against the Padres in the Mets' first series after the All-Star break. "It finally caught up with me, and it's something I could pitch through. It's something I would have to battle through the rest of the year. I think this is just as good a time as any to take a break and let it get back strong."
Manager Terry Collins said that the Mets first noticed something amiss on June 28 in Pittsburgh, when Niese delivered a quality start but lacked his usual crispness.
"You don't need radar guns to tell you there's something going on here," Collins said. "This guy lives and dies with that good two-seamer and his cutter, and his crisp breaking ball, and we haven't seen that in two starts."
Combined with Niese's recent injury history -- a partially torn left rotator cuff last summer, as well as less serious elbow and shoulder issues this spring -- the anecdotal evidence was enough for the Mets to shut him down through the All-Star break. The team considered this an ideal time to give him a rest, knowing he will only miss one start as long as he comes off the DL when eligible.
"There is a time, I think, all pitchers go through, where you're just getting fatigued," Collins said. "You can watch him and kind of see some things that [make you ask], 'Hey, are you OK?' There's no discomfort. There's no pain like last year in Atlanta, where he walked off the mound because he said, 'Listen, I can't do this. I can't throw another pitch.' It's not like that."
For Niese, that time came 17 starts into an already injury-shortened season. Though he has a career-low 2.96 ERA in 103 1/3 innings, he believes his abbreviated Spring Training -- the aforementioned elbow and shoulder injuries forced him to the DL to start the season -- weakened the shoulder for the first half of the season.
"I could pitch now, but ... I'll be better with the rest," he said. "It's smart. It just seemed like each start it got progressively more tired and more weak. I think it's smart. I think it's best for the team if I do get it better."
Gee, who has been sidelined since May 14 with a strained right lat, recently completed a Minor League rehab assignment. He passed his final test on Sunday morning, throwing a bullpen session that will serve as his tuneup for Wednesday's outing.
"He felt great," Collins said of Gee, who was 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA in eight starts prior to his injury. "He's all fired up about it, so we're excited to get him out there."
The moves also mean that right-handers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jacob deGrom should receive two more starts apiece prior to the All-Star break, which begins on July 14. One of those two is likely ticketed for the bullpen when Niese returns from the DL.