Niese was sharp into the sixth inning of his injury delayed first start of the season Sunday, when the New York Mets lost 2-1 to the Cincinnati Reds, missing an opportunity to finish off a three-game sweep.
Niese (0-1), who was slowed by shoulder weakness and elbow inflammation this spring, held Cincinnati to two hits through five innings but gave up three straight singles to open the sixth, beginning with Reds fill-in starter Alfredo Simon (1-0).
Chris Heisey, in the lineup for Billy Hamilton, who has a jammed left middle finger, and Brandon Phillips each singled to load the bases, and Joey Votto followed with a sacrifice fly and Ryan Ludwick singled to left for a 2-1 lead.
Jay Bruce then grounded to first base, ending Niese’s day on his 90th pitch.
The left-hander allowed six hits and two runs in 5 2-3 innings in front of dozens of dogs at Citi Field on Bark in the Park day.
“I feel good, felt like the ball was coming out of my hand pretty well, obviously didn’t have any pain,” Niese said.
“There’s no easy answers here,” Collins said. “The only way you do it is grind it out and have an approach, stick with it.”
The Mets went into the season with the 25-year-old d'Arnaud as their primary catcher and no veteran backup the system. He missed much of last year on the disabled list and hit only .202 (20 for 99) in a 31-game stint in New York.
D'Arnaud was acquired from Toronto along with top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard for R.A. Dickey after the knuckleballer won the CY Young Award in 2012 and the Mets are expecting him to be their starting catcher for years to come.
“I’m worried about his mental approach more than anything,” Collins said.
Said d'Arnaud: “My swing feels good, just trying to make good contact.”