<
>

Morning Briefing: We're back!

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

FIRST PITCH: We’re back!

Pitchers and catchers don’t officially report until Thursday, but “Morning Briefing” already is reporting for duty.

Actually, plenty of Mets already are working out at the team’s spring-training complex, including Matt Harvey, David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Bobby Parnell.

Besides Thursday, other notable dates:

Saturday: First pitchers and catchers workout.

Feb. 24: Position players report.

Feb. 26: First full-squad workout.

March 4: First Grapefruit League game, versus the Atlanta Braves at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

April 6: Opening Day, at Washington Nationals.

Monday’s news reports:

Nelson Figueroa has signed a contract to succeed Bobby Ojeda as SNY’s pregame and postgame analyst on Mets telecasts, Bob Raissman writes in the Daily News. The Brooklyn-raised Figueroa went 6-11 with a 4.28 ERA in 32 appearances (16 starts) for the Mets in 2008 and ’09. He was in camp with the Mets the following year, but ended up on waivers and was claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies in what became a messy breakup.

• Joe Lemire in the Journal computed that the other 29 major league teams each added, on average, 15 pitchers this offseason from outside their organizations. The Mets added only two: Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin and Duane Below, the latter of whom is headed directly to minor-league camp. “We’re happy with the competition we’re going to have in camp given the number of young people that we have added to our [40-man] roster [who] have high upside,” Sandy Alderson told Lemire.

• Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record asks: Which team will own New York in 2015? Writes Klapisch:

Put it this way: Most major league executives don’t see the Yankees as anything more than an 84-win team this year. Las Vegas odds makers take an even dimmer view, predicting the Bombers' first losing season since 1992. The Mets project only slightly better, at 81-81, according to Vegas, but that's a step forward for a franchise steeped in a six-year losing streak.

Harvey doesn’t just make the Mets better on the field, he makes them more exciting to watch, more compelling to write about. He’s a latter-day Joe Namath -- full of swagger and ego, in love with the spotlight and the perfect medicine for Mets fans who hate ownership.

• Columnist Anthony Rieber in Newsday contrasts the offseasons of the free-spending San Diego Padres and the Mets. Writes Rieber:

It's hard not to get excited by the Mets' young pitching. Matt Harvey. Jacob deGrom. Zack Wheeler. Jenrry Mejia. Jeurys Familia. Noah Syndergaard and Long Island's Steven Matz on the doorstep. They all could be real good for a real long time. It's also hard not to get depressed when thinking about what the Mets could be if Alderson had more dollars at his disposal. If it were Mets fans instead of Padres fans who welcomed new owners last year.

Unlike the Padres, who had one of the worst everyday lineups in recent memory, the Mets didn't need a total makeover this offseason. But Alderson is banking on everything going right -- health from the pitchers, bounce-back years from [Michael] Cuddyer, David Wright and Curtis Granderson, continuing improvement from Lucas Duda, Juan Lagares and Travis d'Arnaud, and decent defense from the double-play combo of Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores.

• Mike Vorkunov at NJ.com notes that the Atlantis sports book has the Mets at 81 wins. (Take the over?)

• Also at NJ.com, Vorkunov presents the case that looming Hall of Famer Mike Piazza was a better defensive catcher than previously thought, because he was successful at framing pitches, based on a recent study by Baseball Prospectus.

Back in December, ESPN’s Mark Simon computed the numbers for current catchers for last season. Travis d'Arnaud got 79 more called strikes than the average catcher in comparable locations, which ranked 16th-best in the majors. Anthony Recker ranked eighth-worst in MLB, with 86 fewer strike calls than the average catcher. At the extremes, the Angels’ Hank Conger was best at +181. Miami’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia was worst at -169.

• Matt Ehalt in the Record, Kristie Ackert in the Daily News, and Marc Carig in Newsday examine five spring-training storylines to watch.

• Paul Ivice in Newsday looks at the competition among Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Eric Campbell and Matt den Dekker to make the Opening Day roster. At least right now, the bench projects to include Recker, Ruben Tejada, John Mayberry Jr., Nieuwenhuis and Campbell. Nieuwenhuis is out of options, so he would need to pass through waivers to be sent to Triple-A. The fellow lefty-hitting outfielder den Dekker can be sent freely to the minors without that exposure.

• Kevin Kernan in the Post profiles shortstop prospect Matt Reynolds, who hit a combined .343 with six homers and 61 RBIs between Binghamton and Las Vegas last season. Reynolds tells Kernan he gets his focus from his father, a former Army Ranger. Reynolds and Dilson Herrera should form the middle infield at Vegas to open the season.

• Actor/Mets fan Viggo Mortensen offers his opinion of the 2015 team in the Post.

• Gary Buiso in the Post quotes Mets fans’ thoughts about the upcoming season.

From the bloggers … John Delcos at Mets Report highlights 10 questions entering spring training.

BIRTHDAYS: Bill Pecota turns 55.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU’RE UP: Will the Mets reach the postseason in 2015?