PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
FIRST PITCH: The Mets have their lone off-day of spring training Wednesday -- major and minor leaguers -- then gear up for a relatively intense final stretch before breaking camp.
Terry Collins said priority No. 1 is getting his first basemen on the field, with the manager pledging either Ike Davis or Lucas Duda would start Thursday’s Grapefruit League game against the Atlanta Braves.
The Mets break camp in eight days. They then head to Montreal for a pair of exhibition games against the Toronto Blue Jays before Opening Day on March 31 against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
“You bet it’s the critical part of the spring,” Collins said. “We’re going to tighten some things up around here. … It’s time to play like we’re getting ready for the season.”
Wednesday’s news reports:Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos/Getty Images
Noah Syndergaard was dispatched to minor-league camp Tuesday.
• Noah Syndergaard headlined the list of players sent to minor-league camp Tuesday. The others: right-handers Rafael Montero, Cory Mazzoni, Ryan Reid, Joel Carreño and Miguel Socolovich, catcher Juan Centeno and first basemen Brandon Allen and Matt Clark. Allen is in a walking boot because of a calf injury.
“We don’t want to keep preaching patience, but there’s some real light at the end of the tunnel here,” Collins said Tuesday. “[Syndergaard] wasn’t the only guy sent down today who is going to pitch in the big leagues, and pitch for a long time in the big leagues. Montero is going to do it. Mazzoni is going to do it.”
The Mets likely will be tight with Syndergaard’s early season pitch counts so he has innings left in the majors during the second half. Syndergaard logged only 124 2/3 innings last season including the Eastern League playoffs and Futures Game, so 155 innings is a rough approximation for 2014. The Mets likely will consider a promotion for Syndergaard sometime in mid-June or beyond, after delaying his arbitration eligibility.
“He ain’t coming out after the fifth up here,” Collins said about pitch limits.
Syndergaard, meanwhile, surrendered one hit but walked four in four innings in a minor-league intrasquad game hours after receiving his demotion news.
• Harvey remains determined to return to the Mets in August, only 10 months after Tommy John surgery. He said he is undeterred by Atlanta’s Kris Medlen and Oakland’s Jarrod Parker recently learning they required that procedure for a second time. Harvey also remains adamant he wants to rehab primarily in New York and be around the team, which is his right under the collective bargaining agreement, even if the team disagrees. He dislikes the team’s attempts to muzzle him from speaking with the media and tweeting, too. Read more in the Daily News, Star-Ledger, Newsday and MLB.com.
• Three Arizona Diamondbacks scouts, including special assistant Todd Greene, quietly watched Mets minor leaguers in an intrasquad game Tuesday, furthering speculation that the Mets ultimately could acquire one of their shortstops: Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings. Seattle Mariners scout Joe McIlvaine also was in attendance for an intrasquad game that included Logan Verrett pitching and Kevin Plawecki catching. The Mariners are likely to trade Nick Franklin.
On Franklin, FanGraphs tackles the topic about whether he can be a passable shortstop.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Sandy Alderson has resumed speaking with teams about Ike Davis, a source told ESPNNewYork.com.
• Sandy Alderson has started reengaging teams who expressed interest in Davis during the offseason, a source told ESPNNewYork.com.
• Jonathon Niese returned to camp Tuesday and expressed relief that his second spring-training scare turned out to be only inflammation of the left elbow, with no structural damage. Niese said he does not have an ego about starting Opening Day.
Having him open the season on the DL and making his season debut April 6 against the Cincinnati Reds continues to seem the most viable option. The Mets insist they have not yet reset their rotation now that Niese is likely to miss Opening Day, beyond knowing that Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee will start during the season-opening three-game series against the Nats.
• The Mets have arranged their starting pitchers for the next week of spring training, beginning with Zack Wheeler facing the Braves on Thursday at Tradition Field.
BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets minor-league catcher Landon Powell, now a volunteer assistant coach at Furman University, turns 32. ... Prospect Yeixon Ruiz, who hit .304 at Kingsport last season, is 23.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
What a tremendous opportunity but there's still work to be done.
— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) March 18, 2014
YOU’RE UP: Would you prefer Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings, Nick Frankin, Stephen Drew, Ruben Tejada or Wilmer Flores as the Opening Day shortstop?