<
>

Morning Briefing: On the road again

6/26/2014

NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: After a two-game homestand, the Mets return to the road.

The Amazin’s open a four-game series at Pittsburgh, with Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-1, 2.68 ERA) opposing right-hander Vance Worley (1-0, 1.98) at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at PNC Park. The Mets also make a stop at Atlanta during the trip.

Juan Lagares, who had been on the disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle on his right side, will be activated for the series opener.

The Mets optioned lightly used Wilmer Flores (.225, 1 HR, 7 RBIs) to Triple-A Las Vegas to clear the roster spot. That means Ruben Tejada will be leaned on heavily at shortstop, since the Mets do not have a bona fine backup on the major league roster.

Eric Campbell has played only two pro games at shortstop -- both this season with Vegas. David Wright fancies himself a shortstop and can be used there in a pinch, but it would be hard to foresee him ever getting a start there. (Jacob deGrom, who has a .333 average, played shortstop in college at Stetson.)

The Mets will now have seven active outfielders, if you’re liberal in your counting: Curtis Granderson, Lagares, Chris Young, Eric Young Jr., Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Bobby Abreu and, at least in terms of capabilities, Campbell.

Meanwhile, the Mets will again get to catch up with Ike Davis this weekend. Davis is hitting .254 with four homers and 19 RBIs and has a .360 on-base percentage in 58 games since the trade for Zack Thornton and player-to-be-named Blake Taylor, a left-hander who made his organization debut with four scoreless innings in the Gulf Coast League on Tuesday.

Thursday’s news reports:

• On the heels of his first complete game, Zack Wheeler had his shortest career start. Wheeler allowed a career-high six earned runs in two innings and the Mets had a three-game winning streak snapped with an 8-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics.

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

Zack Wheeler had his shortest career start Wednesday.

Wheeler thought A’s baserunners had been relaying the location of his pitches to batters. The bigger issue: his fastball “leaking” over the plate.

Down by eight runs, Lucas Duda had a pinch-hit three-run homer, for his first extra-base hit against a southpaw this season. Chris Young added a two-run homer, for his first third homer in two games, calming talk of his potential release.

Wright’s streak of consecutive games with an RBI ended at a career-high-matching seven.

Columnist Anthony Rieber in Newsday suggests Wheeler more resembles A.J. Burnett than Matt Harvey, and Wright apparently doesn’t disagree. Columnist Bill Madden in the Daily News also dissects Wheeler’s outing.

Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Record, Times, Newsday and at MLB.com.

• Read more on Lagares’ activation and Flores’ demotion in the Star-Ledger, Record and Newsday.

• Catcher Kevin Plawecki, a supplemental first-round pick in 2012 out of Purdue, has been promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He will represent the Mets in the Futures Game in Minneapolis alongside Noah Syndergaard.

• First baseman Matt Clark asked for and was granted his release by the organization from Double-A Binghamton. Clark, 27, signed with the Mets late in the offseason after slugging 25 homers in Japan in 2013. He was hitting .297 with 10 homers and a team-high 46 RBIs with the B-Mets, but was poised to lose playing time with younger players the priority.

• The Mets announced the signings of six additional draft picks, although most had been known and/or already appeared in minor league games: right-hander Gabriel Llanes (15th round), outfielder Raphael Ramirez (18th), outfielder Tucker Tharp (30th), left-hander Kurtis Horne (31st), outfielder Arnaldo Berrios (39th) and Dale Burdick (40th). Berrios is a product of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. The Mets have signed 26 of their 39 picks.

• Andrew Beaton in the Journal tries to decode what a positive run differential and losing record means.

• The Mets will be conservative with Wheeler’s innings, Terry Collins indicated. Still, Wheeler logged 168 2/3 innings in 2013. So approaching 200 innings, if he’s capable, would not seem outlandish. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

John Lannan, who had not pitched in a game since being outrighted by the Mets in mid-April, allowed five runs on one hit and four walks and recorded only one out in a start for Class A St. Lucie at Fort Myers on Wednesday. Octavio Acosta allowed a solo homer but no other hits in six innings as Brooklyn beat Aberdeen, 5-1. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• Harvey expects to throw off a mound for the first time in mid-July. Read more in the Post.

Scott Kazmir feels sympathy for Victor Zambrano. "It’s unfortunate how that went down with Victor Zambrano because I’m sure he’s a great guy," Kazmir told Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger. "He didn’t deserve all that. It was something where maybe he -- I don’t know. I don’t know what happened with the injury or anything like that, but if he would have done fine, if he would have done good with the Mets, maybe we wouldn’t even be talking about this trade. It’s just one of those things.”

BIRTHDAYS: Derek Jeter, the other captain in New York, turns 40. ... Double-A Binghamton reliever Hamilton Bennett is 26. ... Former pitcher Jason Middlebrook is 39. ... Ex-infielder Luis Hernandez is 30.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU’RE UP: Who should play shortstop if Ruben Tejada has a day off?