Marlins-Mets Preview

The depth of the New York Mets’ rotation is considered a major

concern, and it was evident in their first loss of 2010. With two

veterans coming off poor seasons, the Mets are turning to young

Jonathon Niese to fill a void.

Niese will try to prove he deserves a regular turn in the

rotation Thursday night when New York concludes a three-game series

with the Florida Marlins at Citi Field.

The Mets (1-1) have relied heavily on ace Johan Santana to

anchor the rotation and he’s delivered by going 30-16 with a 2.76

ERA in 60 starts over two-plus seasons since being acquired from

Minnesota. He got the new season off to a positive start Monday,

allowing one run and four hits in six innings of a 7-1 win over

Florida (1-1).

After Santana, it gets dicey for the Mets, who ranked 12th in

the NL with a 4.77 ERA last year.

John Maine is trying to re-establish himself as a solid No. 2

after winning a career-high 15 games in 2007. However, he was hit

hard in Wednesday’s 7-6, 10-inning defeat, giving up four runs and

eight hits – two homers – in five innings.

New York’s other veteran starters are Mike Pelfrey and Oliver

Perez, who both struggled in 2009 and were moved to the back of the

rotation due to poor efforts in spring training.

That leaves the Mets to hope Niese can emerge as a contributor

in his first full season in the majors.

Niese went 1-1 with a 4.21 ERA in five starts in 2009, but his

season was cut short in August due to a torn hamstring. The

left-hander will get his first start against Florida after going

1-1 with a 6.52 ERA in six games during spring training.

“I think his time has come,” pitching coach Dan Warthen told the

team’s official Web site. “He’s done his growing and his learning.

Now, it’s time to do his pitching.”

While the rotation has questions, manager Jerry Manuel feels

good about the lineup, which overcame a five-run, seventh-inning

deficit Thursday before losing in extra innings.

“You can look at it as a disheartening loss but I look at the

tremendous fight the team put up,” Manuel said.

The rally was helped by the Marlins’ bullpen, which had three

relievers combine to surrender three runs with five walks – two

with the bases loaded – in 2 1-3 innings, while hitting a batter

and committing a balk that scored the tying run.

The Marlins will send Nate Robertson to the mound as he tries to

rebound from an injury-plagued 2009. He went 2-3 with a 5.44 ERA in

28 games – six starts – with Detroit last year while struggling

with groin and elbow injuries.

The Marlins re-acquired Robertson on March 30, sending

left-hander Jay Voss to the Tigers.

Robertson, the only left-hander in the Marlins’ rotation,

appeared in six games as a rookie for Florida in 2002.

He was scheduled to be the Marlins’ fifth starter, but was

flipped with Anibal Sanchez after a strong performance in his only

spring game for them April 1. Robertson allowed one run in seven

innings against St. Louis, and manager Fredi Gonzalez was wary of a

long layoff.

“We didn’t want Nate Robertson to not pitch in 10 days,”

Gonzalez told the team’s official Web site. “Another thing is this

splits those right-handers with a lefty. But the major thing was

for him to not have him go 10 days without pitching.”

Robertson allowed two runs and four hits in 7 2-3 innings of a

3-2 loss at New York on June 18, 2004, in his only start against

the Mets.