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Rehabbing Niese 'ready' to return to Mets' rotation

NEW YORK -- When the Mets envision a rotation of the future, Jonathon Niese certainly figures into the plans. At just 26, the starting pitcher was New York's Opening Day starter -- the ace in a time before Matt Harvey was the essence of dominance that he's become.

An injury has derailed the left-hander as the rest of the rotation's future has emerged in his absence. Rookie Zack Wheeler debuted three days before Niese went on the disabled list with a rotator cuff injury, and Jenrry Mejia has recaptured some of the brilliance he briefly displayed as a rookie.

Niese said he "should be ready for Sunday" to rejoin that bunch after making a final rehab appearance with Double-A Binghamton on Tuesday. The starting pitcher tossed five innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four in a win over Double-A Altoona.

"Each one of my rehab starts have felt pretty strong," Niese said. "Velocity's been back, and the command, for the most part, has been where I wanted it."

The Mets have still not announced a starter for Sunday's series finale against the Diamondbacks, but manager Terry Collins indicated on Tuesday that if all went well in Niese's rehab start he would likely return for that series.

As for whether he'll be at full strength remains another question. The lefty has been on the disabled list since June 21 with a partial tear of his left rotator cuff. He threw 80 pitches in his final rehab start and said he should be good to throw about 95 in his next outing, though he could potentially top the 100-pitch plateau.

"We'd like to get him to where 80 and 90 would be easy," Collins said, "so therefore you've got to condition the arm to be able to throw 100 or more."

Niese said his injury likely won't be totally healed until the offseason, when he'll "have the time to take to heal it." It won't change his offseason program at all, and it won't change the way New York handles him too much. The club will keep a closer eye on him but would like to get him back to that 100-pitch ability.

"We try to take care of all our pitchers," Collins said. "And obviously, as the game goes on -- as the game gets deeper -- we'll make sure that if there's any signs of fatigue, any signs of dropping his arm, those types of things where it looks like his shoulder's getting tired, we'll be on top of that."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. David Wilson is an associate reporter for
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