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Morning Briefing: Day to exhale for Mets

3/18/2015

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. --

FIRST PITCH: And on the 15th day of Grapefruit League play, the New York Mets rested.

The Mets enjoy their lone day off of spring training on Wednesday, before resuming action with split-squad games Thursday.

Zack Wheeler, who faces Tommy John surgery, is due to meet with team doctor David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery on Wednesday. He also may visit Dr. James Andrews for a consultation, although there is no option but to undergo the procedure, according to Mets general manager Sandy Alderson. Wheeler only needs to decide whether Altchek or Andrews will operate, the GM said.

Wheeler declined to take questions Tuesday in the clubhouse, saying he preferred to first meet with Altchek.

When the Mets reconvene Thursday, ex-Met Collin McHugh and the Houston Astros visit Tradition Field to face Dillon Gee. Gee begins ramping up for starting duty in place of the injured Wheeler. He should log between 50 and 60 pitches in the upcoming outing.

In the other split-squad game, Jonathon Niese starts against the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter. Left-hander Jaime Garcia starts for the Cards.

WEDNESDAY'S NEWS REPORTS:

  • Jacob deGrom retired the final 14 batters he faced and tossed five scoreless innings as the Mets beat the Miami Marlins, 6-4, Tuesday. Johnny Monell had a go-ahead three-run homer in a five-run eighth. Jenrry Mejia allowed a pair of baserunners in the ninth before converting the save. Read more at MLB.com.

  • Matt Harvey's next start will come Sunday against the New York Yankees. Harvey told Dan Martin in the Post that he could lead the Mets in overcoming Wheeler's loss. "I kind of took over and took charge at North Carolina when I was a junior and had the whole staff on my shoulders there," Harvey told Martin about college. "So now it comes pretty natural. It's something I enjoy. I'm ready to do the same thing here."

Check out the upcoming pitching assignments here. Read more on Harvey versus the Yankees in the Daily News.

  • Gee thoughtfully said he would rather be in the bullpen than gain a rotation spot by Wheeler needing Tommy John surgery. Read more in the Post, Newsday and at MLB.com.

  • Alderson defended allowing Wheeler to pitch in pain last season. The GM insisted treating Wheeler more conservatively would have deprived the Mets of having Wheeler pitch and would not have prevented the ultimate ulnar collateral ligament tear.

Columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post suggested Alderson left the Mets open to criticism because of Wheeler's heavy usage last season. Davidoff cited a Sports Illustrated report that Wheeler had 13 games of at least 110 pitches last season. No other pitcher 24 or younger exceeded seven games reaching that pitch count. Writes Davidoff:

In a time when managing pitch counts is en vogue, the Mets left themselves susceptible to this scrutiny. Or to put it another way: Wheeler's workload to get through innings has increased Alderson's workload in weathering the post-diagnosis storm.

Writes columnist John Harper in the Daily News on whether the Mets are culpable:

They could have proceeded more cautiously with Wheeler after last year's in-season pain carried into the winter, necessitating an MRI in January. Then, however, the question becomes: Would such caution merely have delayed the torn ligament rather than possibly prevented it?

And that's where it's hard to conclude the Mets were at fault here, if indeed, as they say, previous MRIs showed no tear in the ligament. At some point Wheeler had to pitch, and Alderson apparently was convinced that the right-hander's history of chronic tendinitis put him at risk of further damage, whatever the timetable.

Read more on Wheeler's handling by the Mets in the Times, Journal, Newsday, Record and at MLB.com.

  • The Mets sent infielder Dilson Herrera and six other players to minor league camp Tuesday: infielder Wilfredo Tovar and right-handers Matt Bowman, Tyler Pill, Hansel Robles, Cody Satterwhite and Gabriel Ynoa. That leaves 46 players remaining in camp -- although that includes Wheeler and Josh Edgin, both of whom are lost for the season. Edgin underwent Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.

  • Entering camp, the bullpen had only one spot up for grabs, and that was a temporary placeholder until Bobby Parnell was activated from the DL a few weeks into the season. Now, with Edgin out and Gee shifting from relief to the rotation, there are three spots available beyond locks Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, Carlos Torres and Mejia.

Alderson offered a strong indication Tuesday that one of those vacant spots should go to Rafael Montero, although the Mets still view the prospect as a starting pitcher long term. Another could go to veteran Buddy Carlyle, who performed well for the Mets in relief last season. Carlyle has an out at the end of spring training if he is not on the Opening Day roster. The final spot optimally would go to a left-hander, but that southpaw may be pitching in another organization right now, since the in-house candidates have not impressed.

Asked Tuesday if he was still adamant about having a left-hander in the bullpen, Alderson said: "Yeah, but if we have some righties that are comfortable getting lefties out, that wouldn't be the first time that a team has gone without a left-hander. But we continue to look -- look at what we have and look at what we don't have."

Read more about Montero's role and the unsettled bullpen in the Post, Newsday and Record.

  • David Wright returned to camp Tuesday after spending time in Norfolk, Virginia, for what was called a family matter.

  • Black resumed throwing on flat ground Tuesday after dealing with shoulder "weakness" that required an MRI.

  • Parnell, who has dealt with a left-hamstring issue in camp as he returns from Tommy John surgery, did not throw in a minor league game Tuesday. Instead, Parnell continued to throw off a side mound.

  • From the bloggers ... Mets Report finds Alderson's defense of Wheeler's handling weak.

BIRTHDAYS: No one to play for the Mets was born on this date, but Adam Levine, Queen Latifah and Zdeno Chara all celebrate birthdays on March 18.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU'RE UP: Did the Mets mistreat Wheeler last season?