Verlander outpitched in shutout loss to Mets

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Jonathon Niese knows he may get the ball on opening day if Johan Santana begins the season on the disabled list.

The young left-hander is not taking anything for granted, though.

Niese pitched one-hit ball for 4 2-3
innings, and the New York Mets roughed up Justin Verlander in an 11-0
victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

Starting the opener at home on April 1
against the San Diego Padres would be a big deal to Niese — only if
Santana isn’t ready.

“It would be an honor to pitch on
opening day,” Niese said. “I’ll pitch anywhere in the rotation, but if
it is offered, I will accept the challenge.”

Niese went 13-9 last season for the
Mets with a 3.40 ERA in 30 starts. He was second on the staff in wins
behind Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, who was traded to the Toronto Blue
Jays over the winter. Santana started only 21 games, going 6-9 last
season for the Mets.

New York manager Terry Collins is
confident Niese, who hasn’t allowed a run to a major league team this
spring, would be up to the task.

“He won 13 games and pitched a lot of
innings for us last year,” Collins said of Niese. “He’s growing up as a
pitcher and he deserves the opportunity. I think he can be one of the
best pitchers in the game.”

Niese wasn’t satisfied with walking four Monday and knows there is work to be done between now and opening day.

“I feel good and my velocity is
increasing,” Niese said. “I need to cut down on my walks, but I am also
trying to attack hitters. I’m getting to where I want to be.”

Verlander allowed five runs, while walking two, hitting two batters and balking in a run in his worst outing of the spring.

Verlander said he had an idea coming in for his first inning that it might not be his day.

“It’s the first time I haven’t had it
this spring,” said Verlander, who entered the game having allowed only
one earned run. “I knew from the start I didn’t have it and they got to

Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn’t seem concerned.

“It was just an ugly loss in an ugly
spring training game,” Leyland said. “There’s no need for alarm with
Verlander. He is the least of my concerns.”

Jordany Valdespin, who later left the
game after being hit by a pitch from Verlander, homered in the first
inning, and Brian Bixler and Brandon Hicks also homered for the Mets.

The Tigers had five hits, including two from Matt Tuiasosopo.

Valdespin was hit in the groin in the 5th inning. Verlander said it was
unintentional. … After Tuesday’s off day, Matt Harvey will start
against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday. … 2B Daniel Murphy
remains day to day while recovering from a strained muscle in his right
side. … Detroit optioned C Ramon Cabrera and INF Dixon Machado to
Double-A Erie, and RHP Melvin Mercedes to Class-A Lakeland. INF Eugenio
Suarez and OF Daniel Fields were sent to minor league camp. … Drew
Smyly, who hasn’t allowed a run in nine innings this spring, will start
on Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies. Roy Halladay will start
for the Phillies. … SS Jhonny Peralta was a late scratch from the game
after eating clam chowder earlier. Leyland said Peralta didn’t know he
was allergic to clam chowder. Peralta is expected to play on Tuesday.
Leyland said he expects Miguel Cabrera, Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez,
who all played for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, to show up
at camp Tuesday. The Tigers will be in Clearwater to face the
Philadelphia Phillies and Leyland doubted any of them would make the