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Morning Briefing: Bring on the Nats!

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. --

FIRST PITCH: It’s a double dip, sort of, for the New York Mets on Thursday.

Bartolo Colon pitches against minor leaguers on a back field at the team’s complex at 10 a.m. ET to avoid facing the Washington Nationals, his Opening Day opponent.

At 5:05 p.m. ET, Jonathon Niese faces left-hander Gio Gonzalez and the Nats in Viera (WOR 710 AM). Niese will not pitch until the second series of the regular season, in Atlanta.

UPDATE: Because of weather concerns in the evening, Niese will pitch opposite Colon in the morning intrasquad game. Matt Bowman will start the Grapefruit League game.

THURSDAY’S NEWS REPORTS:

  • Rafael Montero limited the New York Yankees to one run in four innings and the Mets won, 7-2, Wednesday in Tampa. Afterward, manager Terry Collins indicated Montero belongs on the Opening Day roster. Montero is expected to claim a bullpen spot. Juan Lagares and John Mayberry Jr. homered in the victory. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Record, Newsday and at NJ.com and MLB.com.

  • Collins will bat the pitcher eighth and Lagares ninth on Friday, when the Mets play the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter. Matt Harvey, who has tossed 9 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, gets that start. Read more from Joel Sherman in the Post.

  • Zack Wheeler underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. The Mets labeled it “successful.” Team doctor David Altchek performed the procedure.

  • The Mets are worth $1.35 billion, seventh-most in Major League Baseball, according to Forbes. The magazine also claims the Mets turned a $25 million profit. Read more in the Post.

  • Daniel Murphy (pulled hamstring) resumed baseball activity Wednesday, hitting off a tee but not yet running. He is expected to be ready for Opening Day. If Murphy is ready for the April 6 opener in D.C., then Eric Campbell and Danny Muno are vying for the last bench spot. Campbell may have been the favorite, but Muno appears to be making a strong push.

  • Read more on Muno in the Record.

  • Bobby Parnell allowed a double in a scoreless inning in a Triple-A game Wednesday. His fastball sat at 87-91 mph. Parnell will open the season on the disabled list, in the final stages of a return from Tommy John surgery. Read more in the Post, Newsday, Daily News, Record and at MLB.com.

  • The Mets will try to overcome their range limitations in the infield by using data to place their fielders on every pitch, Jared Diamond reports in the Journal. “Our percentage is really good on balls at us and not too far away from us,” infield coach Tim Teufel told Diamond. “If we can get them in the area, we’re going to be a lot more efficient.” Writes Diamond:

    After each pitch, the middle infielders will check the sign from the catcher and then relay the pitch type to the first baseman and third baseman. Everybody then shifts positions, careful to wait until the last moment so as not to tip off the batter.

  • Howard Altman at the Observer profiles Jacob deGrom. Writes Altman:

    Jacob deGrom grew up quite unlike most who root for the orange and blue. “He learned to drive at 5,” reminisces his mom, Tammy deGrom. Well, sort of. “The car was parked in the garage,” notes her son. “I had the key in the ignition and I drove through an alley into the dining room. Thank the Lord no one was hurt.” It was the kind of incident that if it took place in Brooklyn or Queens would have attracted news crews. But this happened out in the Florida countryside, a long way from the nearest neighbor.

  • The Mets brought lefty relievers Chase Huchingson and Duane Below to Tampa for Wednesday’s game, even though they are in minor league camp. Huchingson struggled to find the plate during the ninth inning against the Yankees.

  • Mets officials are “more optimistic” they will acquire a left-handed reliever before Opening Day, according to Sherman. Although being in the NL East complicates things, Sherman noted that Miami’s Mike Dunn and Washington’s Matt Thornton and Xavier Cedeno are available.

  • On his personal blog, ex-Met Dana Eveland writes about his free agency this past winter. He ultimately signed with the Boston Red Sox, who took a new MRI of his elbow. Writes Eveland:

    At the end of the year, the Mets’ doctors said everything is going to be fine and that my elbow was clean. I just need to rest because it’s inflamed and if there was time left in the season I could come back no problem. Going into the offseason, I thought that was the situation. Teams called, and they wanted to see my medical history and I said no problem. At the time I was feeling pretty good. My rehab was going well. So I gave multiple teams access to my medical history and those multiple teams came back with the same response: “We’d love to have you but your arm is … not real pretty.”

  • Collins has settled on using Michael Cuddyer in left field and Curtis Granderson in right field during the regular season, despite Cuddyer’s limited career exposure to that corner position.

  • From the bloggers … Mets Report asserts that the Yankees still have a better chance of winning than the Mets because they spend.

BIRTHDAYS: Shawn Hare turns 48.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU’RE UP: Should the Mets bat the pitcher eighth?