Niese said his shoulder felt good after Tuesday's game, despite hitting only 79 mph with his fastball during the first inning. He ended his outing throwing in the upper 80s.
"I kind of started off slow and was able to gradually build up," he said after the game (ESPN NY, Mar. 11). "The more times I get off a mound, the better it will be. ... I'm not 100 percent as far as where I want to be pitching-wise, but I think they're getting more crisp."
Last season, Niese didn't pitch from June 21 to Aug. 11 due to a partial tear in his rotator cuff. He returned to go 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA to end the season.
He says he's "100 percent." I'm sure that's how he feels, but I'm still not sold on his shoulder being a non-issue. He missed time last year. He adjusted his throwing program and workout this past winter, when he focused on building up specific muscles in his shoulder and back. He had an MRI a few weeks ago and says he experienced 'dead arm,' which is typical of pitchers this time of year. However, it's concerning for Niese when in context of the overall shoulder issue, especially since he also complained of pain in his tricep this spring.
The rotator cuff essentially stabilizes the arm. It's the key to how a pitcher gets consistent rotation on his ball, pitching guru Rick Peterson once told me. The team said MRI results indicate the tear is healing, which must mean it's small, slight rip. It can heal on its own without surgery, even if pitching, assuming they make adjustments in delivery to relieve stress on his body. But, the need for an MRI, complaints of 'dead arm,' the tricep, and yesterday's sporadic velocity will probably keep me skeptical of his health until I see otherwise...