The Mariners have signed left-hander Jon Niese to a minor league contract, per Long Island Ducks general manager Michael Pfaff (Twitter link). Niese had been set to open the season with the Ducks in the Atlantic League, but the Mariners purchased his contractual rights. He’ll report to Triple-A Tacoma.
Niese, 32, didn’t pitch in either 2017 or 2018 due in part to injuries. He went to Spring Training with the Yankees in ’17 and the Rangers in ’18 but didn’t pitch for an affiliate of either club during the regular season. His 2018 stint with the Rangers was slowed due to a subscapularis strain that cropped up in Spring Training.
The last big league appearance for Niese came back in a 2016 season that saw the southpaw struggle to a 5.50 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 51.1 percent ground-ball rate in 121 innings between the Pirates and the Mets. Prior to that ugly year, Niese enjoyed a solid six-year run as a mainstay in the Mets’ rotation, pitching in 174 games (169 starts) and compiling a 3.86 ERA with 7.0 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 over the life of 1028 2/3 innings.
Rotation depth in the upper minors has been an issue for the Mariners, who have also signed righties Tyler Cloyd and Christian Bergman to minor league contracts in the past 10 days. Niese will slot in alongside that duo, fellow veteran Tommy Milone and top prospect Justus Sheffield as part the Mariners’ set of starters in Tacoma for the time being.