Morning Briefing: Aaarrgh! Pirates ahoy


FIRST PITCH: The Mets are unbeaten in their last seven road series (5-0-2), their longest streak away from Queens since winning eight straight road series in 1999.

That will be put to the test this weekend, even though the Pittsburgh Pirates have slowed and dipped into second place in the NL Central, a game behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

To open the final series before the All-Star break, Jeremy Hefner (4-6, 3.39 ERA) opposes right-hander Charlie Morton (1-2, 3.38) in today’s 7:05 p.m. opener. Carlos Torres subs for skipped Matt Harvey on Saturday, while Dillon Gee closes the first half Sunday.

Read the series preview here.

Friday’s news reports:

• Poised to be mercilessly jeered this weekend, David Wright appears to have gotten a reprieve. Wright added Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez to the Home Run Derby after Carlos Gonzalez withdrew with a sprained right middle finger, which should satisfy Pirates fans.

• Read more on Wright and the All-Star Game in the Daily News.

• Wright’s jersey, by the way, is the fourth-best seller in MLB this season. No. 5? That’s Harvey.

• The Mets, whose spring-training facility had become increasingly distant from other Grapefruit League opponents over the years as teams relocated to Arizona or the west side of Florida, are due for new neighbors. The Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays intend to move to a new facility in nearby Palm Beach Gardens.

Ruben Tejada did not rock the boat when asked about the organization’s decision to demote him to Triple-A Las Vegas.

• Jeff Pearlman in the Journal profiles 40-year-old reliever LaTroy Hawkins.

• Wilmer Flores had two homers and a double as part of a four-hit night as Las Vegas beat Tucson, 11-3. Rafael Montero in Triple-A and Noah Syndergaard in Double-A both had starts capped at two innings to be ready to start opposite each other in Sunday’s Futures Game at Citi Field. Scott Atchison tossed a scoreless inning for Binghamton as he returns from a groin injury. Atchison is expected to be activated from the DL after the All-Star break. Cory Mazzoni reportedly felt a pop in his knee and was forced to depart Thursday’s B-Mets appearance. Read the full minor league recap here.

Jenrry Mejia’s next start is due to be with Binghamton, writes Lynn Worthy in the Press & Sun-Bulletin. Mejia is scheduled to pitch six innings Saturday. Also on the injury front, writes Worthy:

Outfielder Alonzo Harris said he received medical clearance on Thursday to resume playing. He has been on the disabled list since June 22 with a concussion after a collision with teammates Darrell Ceciliani in the outfield. … Pitcher Tyler Pill visited NYSEG Stadium on Thursday. The right-hander, who started the season in the B-Mets rotation, had his arm in a sling. Pill was diagnosed with a Bennett lesion in May and had season-ending shoulder surgery; Pill said he expects to be able to throw again in four months.

• Venezuelan shortstop Luis Carpio was signed by the Mets on Thursday, on his 16th birthday. He received a reported $300,000. Writes Baseball America’s Ben Badler:

Carpio stands out more against live pitching than in batting practice, showing good bat control and pitch recognition, with a level swing that allows him to make a lot of contact. He’s not a big home run threat, with a swing that produces more line drives than power.

Carpio has improved his strength, bat speed and running times. He ran the 60-yard dash in 6.8 seconds in January, but multiple clubs have clocked him at 6.6 seconds recently. He’s at least a plus runner under way, though he doesn’t have a quick first step and doesn’t get out of the box quickly. He is a good athlete who will start his career at shortstop but may end up at second base or center field. His hands are solid, but his footwork needs improvement, and he has a fringe-average arm.

Scouts describe Carpio as a scrappy gamer whom managers will love because he plays hard and does a lot of things well.

• The Mets’ recent resurgence has been the result of contributions from newcomers from outside the organization and call-ups from Triple-A, writes Marc Carig in Newsday. Mike Puma in the Post notes the contribution of Eric Young Jr.

Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post says the key to a Mets turnaround will be pitching.

• With the All-Star Game in Queens, Citi Field is poised to get national attention, writes Tyler Kepner in the Times.

• Kristie Ackert in the Daily News speaks with Josh Satin. “I came up here and my goal was not to be the Mets’ starting first baseman. I know that is not realistic,” Satin said. “Of course, I want to play. I came up here to prove I can play here, to make myself part of the team so they would find ways for me to play.”

• Charles Curtis at NJ.com investigates how Citi Field might play for the Home Run Derby.

• Anthony McCarron in the Daily News previews the Mets’ and Yankees’ Futures Game participants.

John Franco discusses his role as an All-Star Game ambassador in the Daily News.

• Fan Fest, which opens today, is previewed in the Post.

From the bloggers … John Delcos at Mets Report says the Mets should not trade Bobby Parnell. … Faith and Fear celebrates a milestone: 40 years since first stepping foot inside Shea Stadium.

BIRTHDAYS: Left-hander Dick Rusteck, who threw a shutout in his debut in what ended up being a brief major league career, was born on this date in 1941.


YOU’RE UP: Do you think the Mets will continue their winning ways against the Pirates?