LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) -- Jonathon Niese knows he may get the ball on opening day if Johan Santana begins the season on the disabled list.
The young left-hander is not taking anything for granted, though.
Niese pitched one-hit ball for 42⁄3 innings, and the New York Mets roughed up Justin Verlander in an 11-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday.
Starting the opener at home on April 1 against the San Diego Padres would be a big deal to Niese -- only if Santana isn't ready.
"It would be an honor to pitch on opening day," Niese said. "I'll pitch anywhere in the rotation, but if it is offered, I will accept the challenge."
Niese went 13-9 last season for the Mets with a 3.40 ERA in 30 starts. He was second on the staff in wins behind Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays over the winter. Santana started only 21 games, going 6-9 last season for the Mets.
New York manager Terry Collins is confident Niese, who hasn't allowed a run to a major league team this spring, would be up to the task.
"He won 13 games and pitched a lot of innings for us last year," Collins said of Niese. "He's growing up as a pitcher and he deserves the opportunity. I think he can be one of the best pitchers in the game."
Niese wasn't satisfied with walking four Monday and knows there is work to be done between now and opening day.
"I feel good and my velocity is increasing," Niese said. "I need to cut down on my walks, but I am also trying to attack hitters. I'm getting to where I want to be."
Verlander allowed five runs, while walking two, hitting two batters and balking in a run in his worst outing of the spring.
Verlander said he had an idea coming in for his first inning that it might not be his day.
"It's the first time I haven't had it this spring," said Verlander, who entered the game having allowed only one earned run. "I knew from the start I didn't have it and they got to me."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't seem concerned.
"It was just an ugly loss in an ugly spring training game," Leyland said.
MIAMI -- Gio Gonzalez munched on chicken wings and shrimp scampi at a sports bar in his hometown as he watched Team USA rally to stay alive in the World Baseball Classic.
The next game he'll take in from the mound. The Washington Nationals' left-hander will start for the United States in its opener of round two Tuesday night against Puerto Rico.
The U.S. team rallied with seven runs in the last two innings Sunday to advance by beating Canada 9-4 in Phoenix.
Gonzalez wasn't with the team in Arizona. He left the Nationals' camp in central Florida before the U.S. game Sunday to make the three-hour drive south.
"I was so confident they were going to win," Gonzalez stated. "I was ready to go."
INDIANS 0, ANGELS 0
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka gave his manager a scare. Scott Kazmir gave Terry Francona more reason to think the left-hander still might have something to contribute.
Matsuzaka left his outing Monday because of a cramp in his right calf, overshadowing a fine performance by Scott Kazmir as the Cleveland Indians played to a 0-0 tie with Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels.
"It's hard to let a guy pitch like that," said Cleveland manager Terry Francona, who managed Matsuzaka with Boston. "He came in after his first inning and he was trying to loosen it up.
Attempting a comeback after having elbow-reconstruction surgery in 2011 and a disastrous final season with Boston, the 32-year-old Matsuzaka allowed one hit in one inning before cramping during warmups for his second inning in his fourth spring appearance.