Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Rangers sign lefty Niese to Minor League deal

After spending 2017 rehabbing knee, veteran hopes to make comeback
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have reached an agreement with left-handed pitcher Jonathon Niese on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Niese has made 197 Major League starts during nine seasons, mostly with the Mets. He has a long relationship with Rangers assistant pitching coach Dan Warthen, who was the Mets pitching coach during Niese's time in New York.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have reached an agreement with left-handed pitcher Jonathon Niese on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Niese has made 197 Major League starts during nine seasons, mostly with the Mets. He has a long relationship with Rangers assistant pitching coach Dan Warthen, who was the Mets pitching coach during Niese's time in New York.

But Niese did not pitch in the Major Leagues last season and has been signed to give the Rangers needed depth in their rotation. The Rangers now have 62 players coming to Spring Training, with pitchers and catchers reporting Feb. 14.

Niese is just the 11th pitcher on the Rangers' Spring Training roster who has made at least one start in the Major Leagues; that includes reliever Alex Claudio, who made one emergency start last season when Cole Hamels was a last-minute scratch.

That group also includes Chi Chi Gonzalez, who has 13 career big league starts but is expected to miss most of the season while recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

The Rangers' top five starters of Hamels, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, Matt Moore and Mike Minor have combined for 936 Major League starts. But, before the Rangers signed Niese, Gonzalez was the next most-experienced starter followed by Austin Bibens-Dirkx with six starts. Paolo Espino has made two, and Adrian Sampson has made one.

Niese, 31, was a seventh-round pick by the Mets out of high school in 2005 and reached the big leagues in 2008. He was a regular in the Mets rotation from 2010 to '15, going 59-59 with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.

He was traded to the Pirates after the 2015 season, then back to the Mets on Aug. 1, 2016. Overall, he was 8-7 with a 5.50 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP in 20 starts and nine relief appearances that year.

His season came to an end Aug. 23, when he began experiencing pain in his left knee and he required surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He became a free agent when the Mets declined his option and signed a Minor League contract with the Yankees. But he was released at the end of Spring Training when he failed to win a spot in their bullpen.

Even at his best, Niese was not overpowering with a fastball averaging 88-90 mph to go along with a cut fastball, curve and changeup. His main forte is as a ground-ball pitcher.

Niese was one of 37 pitchers who made at least 120 starts in the National League from 2010 to '16. Of those 37 pitchers, he ranked 28th with 6.93 strikeouts per nine innings and his 9.64 hits per nine innings was the fourth highest. His ground-ball ratio of 51 percent was the eighth best among those 37 pitchers.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Jonathon Niese