Morning Briefing: Wheels up for '14 debut

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Zack Wheeler makes his season debut Thursday afternoon opposite Jordan Zimmermann.NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: Zack Wheeler wanted the Opening Day start. He draws just as tough an assignment in Game 3.

In Thursday’s 1:10 p.m. series finale at Citi Field, Wheeler opposes Washington Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, a 19-game winner in 2013.

Wheeler will be pitching after a lengthy layoff. He last appeared last Tuesday, when he allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings in a Grapefruit League game against the Nats in Viera, Fla.

Assuming Lucas Duda starts against Zimmermann, it would mark the first time in franchise history the Mets started three different first basemen in the first three games of a season.

Thursday’s news reports:

• The decision about whether Bobby Parnell needs Tommy John surgery likely will occur in about six weeks. Parnell, diagnosed with a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right elbow, had been experiencing forearm discomfort for four or five days before informing the team postgame Monday, after suffering a blown save, Sandy Alderson said.

Because the tear is in a thicker part of the ligament than, say, Matt Harvey’s tear, doctors believe it is possible Parnell can avoid surgery. He will begin a throwing program in two weeks and see if he is able to ramp up activity over the following month without discomfort.

Jose Valverde is the closer in Parnell’s absence, Terry Collins said. Alderson said the Mets are not seeking outside help right now, such as free-agent Joel Hanrahan.

In a month, Alderson said, the Mets also will consider reinforcements from Triple-A -- which happens to be a timeframe that would delay free agency by a year for those prospects. Noah Sydnergaard is off the table for relief work at the major-league level, but Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom are candidates. Alderson indicated that beginning in May, members of the Triple-A rotation likely would skip turns and pitch an inning in the bullpen anyway with Las Vegas to offset strict innings caps.

Read columnist Ken Davidoff’s take in the Post and columnist Anthony Rieber’s take in Newsday.

Read news stories on Parnell and the closer’s situation in the Post, Daily News, Journal, Newsday and Star-Ledger.

Adam Rubin

Frank Viola underwent open-heart surgery Wednesday at New York Presbyterian.

• Frank Viola underwent open-heart surgery Wednesday at New York Presbyterian and will be in the intensive-care unit for 48 hours. Alderson indicated Viola would like to fulfill his planned role as Triple-A pitching coach this season, but doctors will need to sign off for that to occur. Read more in the Daily News, Newsday and at MLB.com.

• The Nationals broke a tie against debuting Bartolo Colon with fifth-inning solo homers from Ian Desmond and opposing starter Gio Gonzalez en route to a 5-1 win Wednesday. The Mets are 0-2 for the first time since 2005. Colon threw 110 pitches -- more than all but one of his starts last season with the Oakland Athletics.

The Mets have now struck out 31 times. That is a modern-day MLB record for the first two games of a season, topping last year’s Houston Astros 28 Ks, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Houston went on to set an MLB record for most strikeouts in a season, with 1,535 -- which is an average of 9.5 per game.

Curtis Granderson, hitless in nine at-bats as a Met and starting to receive jeers, has contributed five of those Mets Ks.

Ruben Tejada gave himself up and was thrown out at the plate during Wednesday’s loss, leading Collins to suggest the shortstop was confused about the plate-collision rules.

Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Journal, Times, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.

Daniel Murphy, whose absence for paternity leave created a stir on talk radio, is due to rejoin the Mets for Thursday’s matinee. Alderson labeled it “appropriate” for a father to spend time with his newborn and wife. It also is a collectively bargained right to miss up to three days on paternity leave.

Murphy’s son Noah actually had been due April 15. The family always planned for wife Tori to give birth in Florida, where her mother is a nurse.

Murphy, by the way, played in 161 games last season -- a total he already now cannot duplicate this year.

Coincidentally, Jimmy Rollins began paternity leave Wednesday with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Read more on the talk-radio objections to paternity leave in the Post, Daily News, Newsday and Star-Ledger.

Jonathon Niese rejoined the Mets on Wednesday in advance of being activated from the disabled list for Sunday’s start against the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field. Niese likely will be capped at 95 pitches in his first start. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

Chris Young’s delayed Mets debut lasted only one inning Wednesday. C.Y., who missed Opening Day with a strained right quadriceps, had the muscle bark in the first inning and departed before even getting one at-bat. He called the start to his Mets career “a bad dream.” Andrew Brown, who had a three-run homer in Game 1, replaced him in left field.

Brown might have been slated to be demoted to Triple-A on Sunday morning when Niese is activated from the DL. Now, if C.Y. goes on the DL, Brown likely would stick around. Assuming C.Y. goes on the DL immediately, Wilmer Flores -- here for Murphy’s paternity leave -- could stick around with the big-league club until Niese is activated. Otherwise, Flores likely is ticketed for Vegas on Thursday morning.

Read more in the Daily News, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.

• The Mets do not intend for newly signed Bobby Abreu to play first base while with Triple-A Las Vegas. Alderson said Abreu, who played winter ball for hitting coach Dave Hudgens in Venezuela, could end up helping the big-league club as a lefty bat for the bench. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

• Right-handed reliever Ryan Reid was removed from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Las Vegas to clear a spot for the addition of Kyle Farnsworth. Reid, a waiver claim by the Mets during the offseason from the Pittsburgh Pirates, had a 10.50 ERA and .444 opponent batting average in six Grapefruit League innings.

• Collins may want Eric Young Jr. leading off, but it was Juan Lagares atop the order and Wilmer Flores at second base with E.Y. Jr. on the bench Wednesday. The reason, according to Collins, was E.Y. Jr. being hitless in eight career at-bats against Gonzalez. Collins apparently wants to stick with Chris Young in the middle of the order, hitting behind Granderson and not leading off. Lagares has produced two straight multi-hit games.

• Mets minor-league seasons begin Thursday. Montero starts for Las Vegas at 10:05 p.m. ET against Fresno. Darin Gorski starts for Binghamton at 6:35 p.m. against Akron. Gabriel Ynoa starts for St. Lucie at 6:30 p.m. against Palm Beach. Robert Gsellman starts for Savannah at 7:05 p.m. against Lakewood.

Read comments from Syndergaard on pitching in the Pacific Coast League in the Las Vegas Sun.

Read a position-by-position breakdown of the Double-A B-Mets in the Press & Sun-Bulletin.

• Lenny Dykstra is suing Los Angeles County, alleging he was beaten by deputies while in jail, the Associated Press writes.

• Jorge Arangure in the Times examines what protocols were in place to determine whether Bryce Harper should have remained in the game Opening Day after being kneed in the head during a slide.

BIRTHDAYS: Rod Gaspar, who appeared in 118 games for the world-champion ’69 Mets, was born on this date in 1946.


YOU’RE UP: Should the Mets consider putting Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom in the big-league bullpen right now?