Morning Briefing: Happy Wheeler Day!



FIRST PITCH: Zack Wheeler makes his 2015 Grapefruit League debut Monday as the Mets host the Miami Marlins at 1:10 p.m. (SNY).

Wheeler opposes right-hander David Phelps, who was acquired from the New York Yankees with Martin Prado on Dec. 19 for a package that included Nathan Eovaldi.

In last Tuesday’s intrasquad game, Wheeler allowed two hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. His first inning of work was called after two outs because he had reached a pitch limit. Wheeler was throwing across his body and described his mechanics as “herky-jerky,” but he labeled it an easy fix.

On the injury front, Terry Collins expects Daniel Murphy will return to the Grapefruit League lineup against the Marlins. Murphy was hit by a pitch atop the right hand on Friday. X-rays were negative. He took batting practice Sunday. Lucas Duda, who did not swing for three weeks because of an intercostal muscle strain on his left side, is due to take batting practice for the first time on Monday. He should be in a game Friday.

Commissioner Rob Manfred also is expected at Mets camp Monday to meet with players.

Meanwhile, beginning at 10 a.m., fans can register for free tickets for an Opening Day viewing party on the upgraded scoreboard at Citi Field. The Mets face the Washington Nationals in D.C. on April 6 at 4:05 p.m. Go to Mets.com/WatchParty to sign up. Parking at Citi Field will cost $10. (Read more at MLB.com.)

Monday’s news reports:

Jonathon Niese retired the first eight batters he faced before hitting a wall and Kirk Nieuwenhuis went 3-for-4, but the Mets lost to the Red Sox, 6-3, Sunday. Hansel Robles walked a pair of batters and served up a three-run homer to Xander Bogaerts as Boston took a 5-2 lead in the fifth. Rick Porcello, who grew up a Mets fan in New Jersey, limited the Amazin’s to one unearned run in three innings in his Red Sox debut. The Mets walked 10 batters. Read game recaps in the Post and at MLB.com, more on Niese in Newsday and at NJ.com, and more on Nieuwenhuis in the Daily News.

Travis d'Arnaud was spiked and cut his left ring finger on Sunday while sliding into second base. He departed the game, but did not require stitches.

• Union chief Tony Clark made his annual visit to Mets camp Sunday and indicated he had no problem with the Mets’ voluntary offseason workout camps. Clark, an ex-Met, also declined to express any frustration with the Mets’ payroll level. The Mets’ payroll should rise to $100 million this season, barring a trade involving Dillon Gee. Read more in the Record, Newsday and at MLB.com.

• Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post suggests Gee is more valuable as a Met than what the club would get in return in a trade -- unless the Mets were to get an upgrade at shortstop or lefty relief help, which is not happening. The injury to Yu Darvish with the Texas Rangers should illustrate how nice it is to have a security blanket, according to Sherman, who writes:

Darvish’s injury should not have been a reason to think further about dealing Gee. It should motivate the Mets to keep him.

After all, the Mets’ rotation currently consists of the majors’ oldest starter, the anti-Adonis, Bartolo Colon, 41; the dubious shoulder of Jonathon Niese; two Tommy John surgery survivors, Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom; and the power stylings of Zack Wheeler. The subset that believes that quintet is going DL-free this season also would swear they saw Bigfoot kissing the Loch Ness Monster last night.

• Texas has not placed a call to the Mets since Darvish’s injury, a source told ESPNNewYork.com on Sunday morning. Read more in the Record.

• Tim Rohan in the Times profiles Michael Cuddyer, who acted as a substitute teacher at his old high school even after playing in the postseason with the Minnesota Twins.

• Columnist Bill Madden in the Daily News suggests Niese’s health is encouraging.

• Matt Ehalt in the Record examines Juan Lagares, who is the manager’s preference to lead off. Writes Ehalt:

Last season, Lagares swung at 33.7 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, according to Pitchf/x data on fangraphs.com. By comparison, Lucas Duda, who led Mets starters in on-base percentage at .349 last year, chased only 25.9 percent of pitches. Mets hitting coach Kevin Long sees potential in Lagares’ tools, and said he can stress the same principles with him that he used to help Robinson Cano become more selective.

• Mike Puma in the Post discusses Wilmer Flores' positive start to Grapefruit League play in the field and at the plate. Infield coach Tim Teufel said Flores is receptive to data that helps his defensive positioning. “He's studying it, he's buying into everything we're talking about and he's applying it," Teufel told columnist David Lennon in Newsday. "He wants to be good. He doesn't just want to be average. He wants to be better than that, so he's working hard." Mike Vorkunov at NJ.com notes the importance of data in positioning Flores and Murphy. Read more on Flores in the Daily News.

• Vorkunov at NJ.com profiles Scott Rice, who re-signed with the Mets on a minor-league deal after undergoing elbow surgery.

Bobby Parnell expects to pitch on Wednesday in his first game since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.

• Ken Rosenthal at Foxsports.com speaks with Sandy Alderson about being cautious with Matt Harvey this season.

Curtis Granderson, who is active in the MLBPA, suggests minor leaguers -- who are not unionized -- get a raw deal with their compensation to Ted Berg in USA Today. “We’re still performing a job, and with every job in the United States, you should at least get the minimum wage. That’s my side of it,” Granderson told the newspaper. “Even though clocked hours are considered game-time hours, there are still a lot more things that go into work. If you are only working between the start of the game and the end of the game, you’re probably going to end up without a job.”

• A planned status conference in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn regarding fired executive Leigh Castergine’s lawsuit against the team that had been scheduled for Monday has been reset for May 5 because of an “unanticipated change in the court’s calendar.” She alleges she was mistreated because she was pregnant and unmarried.

From the bloggers … Faith and Fear recalls a relatively recent precedent for the past week's Murphy controversy. … Mets Report suggests Darvish’s injury shows the fragility of pitching and importance of Gee. … Blogging Mets thinks the Mets’ confidence might be misplaced.

BIRTHDAYS: C.J. Nitkowski turns 42. ... 19th-round pick Bryce Beeler is 22.


YOU’RE UP: What do you predict for Zack Wheeler’s record and ERA this season?