Morning Briefing: Hours from 1st pitch

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
6:28
AM ET

Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsRafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard started opposite each other in the Futures Game. Now, a day after Syndergaard wowed in an intrasquad game, Montero takes the mound for the Grapefruit League opener.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

FIRST PITCH: Rafael Montero will throw the first pitch of the Mets’ Grapefruit League schedule at 1:10 p.m. Friday, as the Amazin’s face the Washington Nationals (SNY/WOR).

Terry Collins plans to start Chris Young, Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson in the outfield. Wilmer Flores will man second base and Travis d’Arnaud is behind the plate.

Also scheduled to pitch: Jacob deGrom, Logan Verrett, Miguel Socolovich, Adam Kolarek, Gonzalez Germen and Jeff Walters.

Fifth-starter candidate Taylor Jordan starts for the Nats. See Washington’s full lineup and travel list here.

Friday’s news reports:

Jonathon Niese received favorable news after undergoing an MRI on Wednesday in New York. Terry Collins said Niese’s shoulder even looked better than at this point last year, before suffering an in-season rotator-cuff strain. Niese, who does have weakness in the scapula in the back of the shoulder, should resume throwing this weekend.

“Usually when our guys have gone up to get looked at, they’ve come back with bad news,” Niese told Marty Noble at MLB.com. “I’m happy I’ve given people some peace of mind. … Dr. [David] Altchek told me not to pitch, but I can throw for a few days and then get back to my normal routine. There’s just some weakness in the back. It’s nothing bad, nothing like last year when I had the MRI. ... I pretty much knew I was OK before I went up to New York, but it’s not a bad thing to make sure.”

Read more in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Record, Journal and Times.

• Noah Syndergaard struck out five and displayed a wicked curveball in two innings in Thursday’s intrasquad game. Columnist John Harper in the Daily News suggests the Mets avoid delaying Syndergaard’s promotion to June or beyond and strongly consider using him in the rotation early on. Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger, Newsday and MLB.com.

• Danny Muno went 2-for-3 with a homer, walk and steal and Carlos Torres tossed two perfect innings in the tune-up for the Grapefruit League opener. Dillon Gee allowed Muno’s homer, but felt positive about his health -- a far cry from a year ago. Check out the intrasquad recap and box here. Read more in the Post and Daily News.

• Maybe they are all delusional, but David Wright also says 90 wins is “attainable” for the Mets and a suitable goal. Read more in Newsday.

Eric Young Jr. (side) may be held out of games through the weekend, while Bartolo Colon (calf) should resume at least tossing a baseball Friday.

• Tom Gamboa, the former Kansas City Royals first base coach, who was attacked on the field by two spectators more than a decade ago, has been named manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

• ESPN’s Keith Law believes Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin can handle shortstop at the MLB level if the Mets ultimately acquire him. “I actually do,” Law responded during an online chat. “Maybe somewhere between 0 to -5 runs a year on defense, but with his bat, that will work -- and I won’t rule out the possibility that he can be more than that. He has unusually good instincts out there.”

• While the Arizona Diamondbacks want a top-tier catching prospect in a trade for one of their extra young shortstops, they are looking for a better talent than Mets farmhand Kevin Plawecki, Marc Carig writes in Newsday.

• Chris McShane at Amazin’ Avenue chats with T.J. Barra, the Mets’ manager of minor league operations and baseball information, who crunches the organization’s statistics.

On batters, Barra tells McShane: “… You get into their particular selectivity sets: What’s their swing rate? What’s their chase rate? How well do they do on the breaking ball? It’s starting to get to the point that you’re actually measuring the skill and what actually happened and things that players actually control. I think there’s going to be more continuity in what those numbers show in the course of the year than other metrics like batting average and on-base, which have a higher level of variance.”

• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger compares Flores and his childhood idol, fellow Venezuelan Edgardo Alfonzo, who is in Mets camp as an instructor. “I like the way he plays because he likes to go the other way, which is what I used to do,” Fonzie tells Vorkunov about Flores. “I think he can have a pretty good career if he stays that way. He’s nice and quiet and he listens a lot. I don’t like to compare myself or compare someone to me, but that’s good when you listen, be quiet and do the job.”

• Tim Rohan in the Times looks at Ike Davis versus Lucas Duda at first base. Jared Diamond in the Journal also examines that “competition” as well as other camp questions.

• ESPN Deportes Radio Nueva York (1050 AM) will continue to broadcast Mets games in Spanish through 2016. The continuation of the relationship officially was announced Thursday.

From the bloggers … John Delcos at Mets Report writes that the organization should not get carried away by Syndergaard’s intrasquad performance.

BIRTHDAYS: Ex-Mets right-hander Brian Bannister, who was traded to the Kansas City Royals on Dec. 6, 2006 for Ambiorix Burgos, turns 33.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Should the Mets consider Noah Syndergaard opening the season in the big-league rotation? Or wait until mid-April to delay free agency by a year? Or wait until after the Super 2 deadline to delay arbitration eligibility?
Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
15 4.09 151 202
OTHER LEADERS
BAD. Murphy .289
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187