The New York Mets’ plan was originally for Jonathon Niese to start on opening day in place of injured ace Matt Harvey.
Niese, instead, began the season on the 15-day disabled list and could face a tougher situation in his season debut.
The Ohio native has dropped all three career home starts against the Cincinnati Reds, who are trying to avoid their first three-game sweep at Citi Field on Sunday.
Niese went 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA in 2013 and would have replaced Harvey as the starter Monday against Washington. Instead he endured an injury-plagued spring training in which he initially suffered muscle weakness in his shoulder before an MRI also revealed inflammation in his elbow.
The left-hander was also sidelined last June with a partially torn rotator cuff.
Niese probably would have preferred starting against the Nationals since he is 3-0 with a 2.47 ERA against them. Instead he will try and improve on his 0-3 mark with a 3.05 ERA in three home outings against the Reds, with the Mets totaling two runs of support in those games.
Whether New York (2-3), which last swept a three-game home set from Cincinnati in 2005 at Shea Stadium, can provide more help this time depends on how it will fare against Alfredo Simon, who will make his first start for Cincinnati in his season debut due to Mat Latos’ injury.
Simon spent the last two seasons as a Reds reliever, going 6-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 2013. This will mark his first start since Sept. 28, 2011, with Baltimore.
The right-hander is 3-9 with a 5.15 ERA in 19 career starts. He has totaled four scoreless innings over three relief appearances against the Mets, yielding no hits and two walks.
New York posted a dramatic 6-3 victory Saturday on pinch-hitter Ike Davis’ grand slam with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth.
”That was tremendous ending especially for Ike going through what he’s going through,” manager Terry Collins said. ”To come in in a big situation and come through, that’s great stuff.”
Collins has started Lucas Duda at first base in three straight games but already indicated before Saturday’s contest that Davis will start Sunday.
Cincinnati (1-4) has lost three straight, and Saturday’s game was the first for the club that was not decided by one run. Fill-in closer J.J. Hoover sandwiched two walks in the ninth around Anthony Recker reaching when his fielder’s choice out was overturned by a replay.
”Things just didn’t work, nothing worked,” first-year manager Bryan Price said. ”We just weren’t able to close it out.”
Price did not start center fielder Billy Hamilton, who jammed his left middle finger sliding into second base Friday.
Brandon Phillips had a two-run homer for the Reds. Phillips, who is 7 for 18 against Niese, has hit safely in all 28 road games against the Mets with a .345 average and 27 RBIs.
Niese has fared better against Joey Votto (2 for 15) and Jay Bruce (2 for 13).
Cincinnati is trying to avoid its worst six-game start since beginning 1995 at 0-6.