The New York Mets will look to get their offense going after running into one of the game's best pitchers on Opening Day when they take on the Florida Marlins at 7:05 p.m. EST in the second game of the season (SNY). Lefty Jon Niese will take the mound against 28-year-old Ricky Nolasco.
Though Niese looked warn down during the months of August and September, his rookie-year season was a silver lining in a frustrating 2010-11 season and the Mets will be counting on him to take the next step this year. He's had trouble against the Marlins in his career: 1-4 with a 6.49 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in five starts, but this is a new season, and a new opportunity. With Johan Santana out, Niese is the second man in the rotation for a reason and the organization believes in him. The first order of business will be throwing strikes and pitching past the fifth inning, unlike Mike Pelfrey in his season debut.
The Amazin's only managed four hits against Florida on Friday, so getting the bats going will be a key to massaging the early-season jitters that will inevitably will be there for Niese. Nolasco is no slouch though and is another guy with plus stuff and strikeout ability; he was 2-0 with a 3.96 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in four starts against the Mets last season and he struckout 8.4 per 9 innings pitched during the 2010-11 campaign.
With Jason Bay sidelined, Willie Harris received the start in left field last night against the Marlins' ace, but Lucas Duda will play on Saturday and Sunday. When Bay went down, it was discussed that Josh Thole may get moved up to the second spot in the lineup, while Angel Pagan would be placed lower in the batting order to lengthen the lineup, but it's unclear if that's what Terry Collins will decide come gametime.