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Morning Briefing: No fooling, Opening Day nearly here

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. --

FIRST PITCH: It's April Fools' Day, but this is no joke: The New York Mets play their final home spring-training game Wednesday.

Opening Day starter Bartolo Colon gets his final tuneup for Monday's game against the Washington Nationals. Colon opposes St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez at 1:10 p.m. ET at Tradition Field (SNY).

The Mets play in Jupiter on Thursday, also against St. Louis. The Amazin's then fly to the Lone Star State for a pair of exhibition games against the Texas Rangers.

WEDNESDAY'S NEWS REPORTS:

  • Jonathon Niese tossed six scoreless innings and debuting lefty specialist Jerry Blevins struck out Bryce Harper on three pitches as the Mets beat the Nationals, 2-0, Tuesday. In his lone at-bat against his former club, Matt den Dekker singled against Sean Gilmartin. Niese revealed afterward he will pitch the season's fifth game, on April 11 at Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves.

  • Before Tuesday's debut, Blevins discussed Monday's trade from the Nats to the Mets. He suggested the Mets have a chance to "shock" people in the NL East. Blevins, incidentally, had just beaten the Nats in an arbitration hearing to earn $2.4 million this season, in his final year before free agency. "I think any time a player has to go to an arbitration hearing … it looks like the days are numbered with that team," Nats reliever Craig Stammen told Mike Vorkunov at NJ.com. "It's usually not a good thing to go through. I think that put it in his head that he might be possibly traded or something like that.” Read more in the Times, Post, Daily News, Newsday, Record and at MLB.com.

  • Alex Torres' protective cap while pitching will look different during the upcoming season.

  • Daniel Murphy went 1-for-3 with a walk and ran the bases on Tuesday in a minor league game as he tries to beat the clock and be ready for Opening Day. The Mets are holding Murphy, who is returning from a pulled hamstring, out of Grapefruit League games to be able to backdate a season-opening DL stint.

  • Commissioner Rob Manfred again defended the Mets' conservative spending during an appearance on WFAN. The team's payroll is now at about $102 million. "I understand that it creates fodder for people to be critical," Manfred said, according to Marc Carig in Newsday. "But what I would say to you is this: I think adding players comes at the point in time that you've built your farm system up and you have a really good core of players on the field. And then it's effective to spend. I think the Mets have made great progress in terms of the young talent they have. And, I know, at the point in time that they think it's appropriate, they will spend to supplement players."

  • Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post revisits last year's "90 wins" statement with general manager Sandy Alderson. “What I said last year was that we need to think about how we win 90 games," Alderson told Kernan on Tuesday. "I think that continues to be our goal. How do we go about winning 90 games? If we have an expectation of doing that, how do we basically execute on that? I never made a prediction before and I am not about to make a prediction now, but we have to think in those terms."

  • Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post wonders if the Mets' spring-training excellence is reality or deception.

  • Vorkunov at NJ.com profiles Jim D'Aloia, who transitioned from CFO of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to director of professional scouting for the Mets over the past decade.

  • At 32 years old, David Wright must prove age is not catching up to him, columnist Bob Klapisch writes in the Record.

  • Read some facts about the Mets' history on Opening Day in Newsday.

  • Pitching coach Dan Warthen tells Kristie Ackert in the Daily News that Rafael Montero was tipping his pitches “horribly” at the major league level last season.

  • Especially with the departure of Eric Young Jr., the Mets lack speed throughout the roster, Matt Ehalt writes in the Record. "We have to hit and run a little more,” manager Terry Collins tells Ehalt. “We've got to rely on some power a little bit more, which we have. We're not going to have that guy who's always standing at second base."

  • John Manuel at Baseball America ranks the Mets organization's talent fifth in the majors, trailing only the top-ranked Chicago Cubs as well as the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins. According to the magazine, the Mets' top-10 prospects are Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Dilson Herrera, Kevin Plawecki, Amed Rosario, Michael Conforto, Montero, Marcos Molina, Gavin Cecchini.

  • Sotheby's will auction a bullpen cart used at Shea Stadium on Wednesday night, Justin Rocket Silverman writes in the Daily News.

  • Travis d'Arnaud is hitting .239 (11-for-46) with no homers and five RBIs in Grapefruit League play after going 2-for-3 Tuesday. “I'm getting in good hitter's counts and seeing the ball well, which I feel is most important,” d'Arnaud told Mike Puma in the Post.

  • Jared Diamond in the Journal explores the role of John Mayberry Jr., who will be the primary pinch hitter against left-handed relievers. Mayberry produced his fourth Grapefruit League homer on Tuesday, against southpaw Gio Gonzalez. "The bullpens are getting better and better, and you need to match up with some of these arms that you're going to face," assistant GM John Ricco tells Diamond. "You need to have quality guys who come in and hit quality pitching. There's a price you've got to pay for that."

  • From the bloggers … Faith and Fear explores a prospective MLB concept in which the Giants might call New York home again. … Mets Report suggests Niese is facing a pivotal season. … Rising Apple explores who is the most integral Met this season. … Blogging Mets makes its 2015 prediction.

BIRTHDAYS: Daniel Murphy turns 30. ... Rusty Staub is 71. ... Cesar Puello is 24.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU'RE UP: Do you believe the Mets' 18-11 Grapefruit League record is an indication of a solid regular season looming?