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Morning Briefing: Port Charlotte or bust!

3/18/2015

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

FIRST PITCH: It is good to be the owner of an MRI business near Mets camp these days.

Zack Wheeler became the latest to be dispatched for a look, a day after Sandy Alderson indicated an MRI was unnecessary. Wheeler, who already had been scratched from Saturday’s start against a Washington Nationals split squad, has suspected tendinitis in his right elbow as well as a blister underneath his middle fingernail.

Despite undergoing two MRIs during the winter that came back “clean as heck,” according to Terry Collins, the Mets opted for another look at Wheeler’s elbow on Saturday to be safe. Wheeler had downplayed his elbow issue earlier in the day, despite pitching through pain at points last season.

"There's a risk-reward as far as these young power pitchers," David Wright said. "It's max effort. It's a lot of wear and tear on your arm. When they're healthy, they're dynamite. But obviously, that’s the strain that puts on your arm, that torque that it takes.”

Wheeler is quoted in the book “Baseball Maverick” regarding his recurring finger issue: “The blister gets underneath the nail and it pops up. When it first happens, that’s when it’s really sore because the nail is actually detaching from the skin underneath. So that’s not very fun.” Wheeler went on to say that it could end up in his head, at least back then in the minors, and cause him to not get around on his slider.

Meanwhile, the bus leaves at 7:15 a.m. Sunday for a rare cross-state overnight trip. Bartolo Colon opposes the Tampa Bay Rays at 1:05 p.m. in Port Charlotte (WOR 710 AM).

Matt Harvey will have to shake off the disappointment of No. 19 UNC’s 90-82 loss to No. 11 Notre Dame in the ACC final before he takes the mound on Monday against the Boston Red Sox for a 1:05 p.m. game in Fort Myers (WOR).

See the full two-day travel list here.

Lucas Duda, who went 1-for-4 as the DH on Saturday, in his first 2015 Grapefruit League action, is due to play first base against the Rays. He had been dealing with an intercostal strain on his left side since before camp began -- although that only limited his ability to swing, not his work in the field.

Sunday’s news reports:

• Alderson told Dan Martin in the Post that a team doctor requested the MRI of Wheeler on Saturday morning. Read more in the Daily News, Times, Record, Newsday and at NJ.com and MLB.com.

• Wright, who has a career-high 189 at-bat homerless drought in regular-season games, delivered a three-run homer over the center field batter’s eye against Tanner Roark and Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr. also went deep as the Mets beat the Nats, 13-4, Saturday. The Amazin’s have produced 37 runs over their past three games. Tyler Pill, filling in for Wheeler, started and tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

Read more on Wright in the Post, Newsday and at NJ.com and MLB.com.

• Columnist Phil Rogers at MLB.com discusses Duda’s importance to the Mets. Writes Rogers:

Duda was a bigger resource for the Mets than you might realize last season. When adjusting totals for park effects, Duda was the sixth-most productive first baseman in the major leagues in 2014, behind only Jose Abreu, Anthony Rizzo, Edwin Encarnacion, Miguel Cabrera and Freddie Freeman. His 136 rating in FanGraphs' wRC+ (weighted runs created-plus) is ahead of Carlos Santana (131), Adrian Gonzalez (128), Adam LaRoche (127) and Albert Pujols (124). That's great company to keep.

Read more on Duda’s return from the intercostal strain in Newsday and at NJ.com and MLB.com.

Vic Black received a favorable report regarding an MRI that was performed Friday. A “relieved” Black has “weakness” but no structural damage in his throwing shoulder, a team official said. Collins indicated that Black should resume throwing on flat ground on Sunday and reenter a game in roughly a week. Read more in the Daily News and at MLB.com.

Bobby Parnell, who had been backed off because of a left-hamstring strain, has now thrown off a mound on consecutive days. He should be in a game on the minor-league side early this week. It would mark his first time in a game since Opening Day of last season. Parnell underwent Tommy John surgery last April 8. Parnell, like Josh Edgin, will open the season on the disabled list, regardless of Edgin’s decision regarding elbow surgery.

• If the Mets want to go outside the organization for relief help late in camp, St. Louis’ Sam Freeman and Washington’s Xavier Cedeno should be among the out-of-options left-handers available, sources told ESPNNewYork.com. Columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post quotes a scout who says: “They need to get a lefty for the bullpen.”

• Matt Ehalt in the Record profiles left-hander Steven Matz. On a high school matchup between Matz and fellow Long Islander Marcus Stroman, Mets cross-checker Steve Barningham told Ehalt: "Marcus was good, but Steven was head and shoulders ahead of him at that point." Matz tossed 7 1/3 no-hit innings as Binghamton clinched its first Eastern League championship in 20 years last season.

• Christian Red in the Daily News chats with Steve Kettmann, the author of “Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets.” The newspaper also has a book excerpt.

From the bloggers … Faith and Fear is rooting for "nothing" between now and Opening Day. … Mets Report believes Wilmer Flores is making the grade so far.

BIRTHDAYS: Pitching prospect Michael Fulmer, who had a 3.98 ERA with St. Lucie last season, turns 22. He was selected 44th overall in the 2011 draft out of high school in Oklahoma.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU’RE UP: What do you think of the title of the book about Sandy Alderson: “Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets?”