NYM@STL: Niese labors for two innings vs St. Louis

JUPITER, Fla. -- It was long, laborious and, at times, ugly. But Jon Niese did not care, because it was a start.

Fully recovered from the soreness in his left shoulder that dogged him earlier this spring, Niese made his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday against the Cardinals, giving up four runs in two innings and topping out at 89 mph in a game the Mets ultimately won, 9-8. Of most importance to Niese were the 50 pitches he threw as the final member of the projected rotation to start a spring game.

"It took a little while for me to get going, get back into the competition," Niese said. "But I felt good. I kind of started off slow and was able to gradually build up.

"I would have liked to have [thrown 50 pitches] in more than two innings. I don't feel like my pitches are as crisp -- I think some of that might have to do with mechanics. But as far as my arm, it feels better and better each time. That's a good sign."

As long as Niese's shoulder remains intact, he has reason to believe the results will come. And as long as those results come, he will be standing on the mound on Opening Day against the Nationals -- an assignment the Mets have privately acknowledged but not officially announced. Niese's plan is to add 15 to 20 pitches to his total each time out, bringing him close to triple-digits by the end of this month.

"I'm not 100 percent as far as where I want to be pitching-wise, but I think they're getting more crisp," Niese said of his pitches. "Some of [them], obviously, I'm not really consistent right now."

Citi Field to host soccer match

Olympiacos and A.C. Milan will play at Citi Field on July 24.

JUPITER, Fla. -- European soccer clubs Olympiacos and A.C. Milan will play at Citi Field on July 24, the Mets announced on Tuesday.

The winner of 40 league titles and 26 Greek Cup titles in its history, Olympiacos will be making its first New York-area appearance in 27 years as it squares off against A.C. Milan, winner of a record 18 Serie A titles in Italy.

Tickets go on sale on Thursday at 10 a.m. ET at mets.com/soccer. The game will be televised internationally on FOX Sports 1.

The match is part of the Guinness International Champions Cup, featuring eight of the world's most recognizable soccer clubs: Real Madrid CF, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool FC, AS Roma, Inter Milan, A.C. Milan and Olympiacos. Twelve round-robin contests will take place from July 24 to Aug. 2 in New York (at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium), Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Charlotte, Denver, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Dallas and one additional city. The finals are scheduled for Monday, Aug. 4, in Miami.

Citi Field has hosted several soccer games in recent years, catering to the diverse ethnic groups that live in the area. Nearby Astoria, Queens, is home to the largest population of Greeks outside Greece; New York proper boasts the largest Italian-American population in the country.

"It is with great pleasure that the administration, technical leadership and we, the players of Olympiacos, await the match against A.C. Milan," said Olympiacos' captain, central defender Aavram Papadopolous. "We are delighted to be playing against a historic rival in front of thousands of fans, most of which will be Greek expatriates. We promise to honor their turnout and offer a beautiful spectacle to all of those who really love football!"

Worth noting

Daniel Murphy, who bruised his right shin sliding into second base on Friday, joined his teammates in outdoor baseball activities on Tuesday for the first time since the incident. The Mets consider him day to day.

• Relievers Vic Black and Scott Rice each recorded three outs on Tuesday against the Cardinals, upping their combined total to eight scoreless spring innings, with 12 strikeouts.