When he talks to the media, there are no signs of the performance he just put on. His cap hanging over his eyes, Niese speaks in the clubhouse with a low, deliberate voice; choosing his words carefully as fireworks explode outside.
He doesn’t get rattled when the media tells him what his manager said just minutes beforehand; a restraint he takes pride in afterwards. It’s a press conference handled by someone who has pitched in New York: very few words are spoken but the self confidence is obvious.
But what did Bisons manager Ken Oberkfell say about Jonathan Niese?
“He was awful,” Oberkfell said when asked of Niese’ performance in a 10-4 loss to Columbus.
Oberkfell was clearly frustrated by the outing from his ace; and downright concerned about the way Niese has performed while with the club. On Friday night Niese fell to 0-3 with the Bisons, with six starts under his belt in the young season and very little to show for it.
“He has struggled here,” Oberkfell said. “He’s not pitching the way he’s capable of pitching.”
Keep in mind this is the same player that went six innings and allowed two runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 8. Now those were the 12-17 Pirates, but Niese allowed seven hits and struck out five in front of 38,496 people at Citi Field. This is the guy who can’t buy a win in AAA?
“I’m not really worried about that,” Niese said when asked about his record with The Herd. “I could care less about my wins.”
When it comes to prospects, most people don’t care about wins. That’s especially true with a Bisons lineup that has struggled to provide run support all year. However, the Buffalo hitters didn’t doom Jonathan Niese on Friday. In fact, they never got the chance.
Niese gave up twelve hits and nine runs in just 2 2/3 innings, digging a hole no lineup was digging out of. Only seven of those runs were earned, but it was enough to boost his ERA to 8.06 after starting the day at 6.55. His WHIP is now 1.95, second worst on the team. (Although the team worst, Mike Antonini at 2.59, was pitching in Binghamton the night Niese started in New York…)
Niese has had just one quality start with the Bisons this season: a six inning, eight strikeout performance against Louisville on May 1. He allowed just one run in Game One of a seven inning doubleheader; but a three run, 7th inning bullpen implosion took away his best chance for a win in the minors this season.
His other five starts with Buffalo have been less than memorable. Niese began his Bisons career with a two inning outing on Opening Day, allowing five runs on five hits and walking three. Niese and Oberkfell both blamed the chilly temperatures for his lack of grip back on April 9, but that was no excuse on Friday. So is there an excuse for his performance?
Well, the 22-year-old has battled flu-like symptoms since his return from the majors, but Niese was a bit more simplistic in his assessment of the game.
“Everything I threw at them they hit where no one was,” he said.