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Monday, June 23, 2014
Morning Briefing: A day to exhale

By Adam Rubin

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

FIRST PITCH: The Mets exhale Monday with a day off before opening a brief two-game homestand against the American League West-leading Oakland Athletics (47-29).

The Mets originally lined up to draw Sonny Gray in Tuesday’s 7:10 p.m. opener. Instead, the A’s will delay the 24-year-old Gray’s next start until Saturday in Miami to conserve his innings.

So Scott Kazmir will pitch for the first time in Queens on Tuesday, opposite Bartolo Colon. Kazmir was signed by Oakland for two years, $22 million after Colon departed for a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets.

Zack Wheeler now faces left-hander Brad Mills on Wednesday. The Mets then head out again for a trip to Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

Monday’s news reports:

• Seven Mets starters had multi-hit games and Jonathon Niese, with unaccustomed run support, won his first game in a month as the Mets beat the Marlins, 11-5, on Sunday. The Mets, who even pulled off a successful suicide squeeze on Niese’s bunt, won three of four games in the series.

Mets players have been celebrating hits by waving towels in the dugout. And the practice has been picking up steam. The team had a season-high-matching 17 hits Sunday.

“We started thinking about it, and it popped right from my memory of the Bulls and their three-peat championship -- Cliff Levingston or Stacey King out there waving a towel all the time,” Curtis Granderson told reporters postgame. “It just popped in my head, and we’ll do that when we get a hit. We started doing it and then a couple other guys did it and now we just needed the guy on the base to do it back. Then it got a little bigger. Now we’ve seen the guys in the bullpen doing it and some of the fans in the stands are doing it.”

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

• The San Diego Padres fired GM Josh Byrnes, and elevated Omar Minaya to an interim position helping lead the baseball-operations department. Read the news story at ESPN.com.

Juan Lagares is due to play with Double-A Binghamton on Monday as his rehab assignment continues. Lagares is expected to be activated later this week.

Travis d'Arnaud, who is expected to be promoted during the Oakland series, struck out as a pinch hitter and Zack Thornton surrendered two runs in the 11th as Las Vegas lost to Memphis, 7-5. Eudy Pina and L.J. Mazzilli had two doubles apiece as St. Lucie beat Jupiter, 10-6, in a rain-shortened game. Brandon Brosher and Ivan Wilson homered in Kingsport’s 5-2 win against Bluefield. Gaither Burmgardner tossed four scoreless relief innings to earn a save as Brooklyn beat Aberdeen, 2-1. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• A team insider told ESPNNewYork.com that team officials were still weighing which catcher -- Anthony Recker or Taylor Teagarden -- would be dropped once d’Arnaud is promoted. Read more in the Daily News.

• Zach Braziller in the Post reviews Nelson Cruz’s accomplishments since the Mets did not sign him this offseason.

From the bloggers … Faith and Fear advises taking things one game, one inning and one pitch at a time.

BIRTHDAYS: Right-hander Juan Castillo, who made his only two major league starts for the Mets, was born in Venezuela, on this date in 1970.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

I liked when Joe Smith pitched for the #Mets. Now he's married to @ALaForce. Life is good for him and we Mets fans still struggle. UGH

— Dan Stack (@StacDemon) June 23, 2014
YOU’RE UP: Have you forgiven the Mets for trading Scott Kazmir?