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Morning Briefing: Bring on the Nats!

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

FIRST PITCH: Bartolo Colon makes his 2015 Grapefruit League debut Thursday as the Mets play a 5:05 p.m. game against the Washington Nationals in Viera (WOR). Max Scherzer, who signed a seven-year, $210 million contract, will debut for the Nats in a potential preview of the Opening Day matchup in D.C.

Right-hander Tanner Roark, bumped from Washington’s rotation to the bullpen despite going 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts last season, is due to appear in relief on Thursday. Scheduled Mets relievers include Gabriel Ynoa, Cory Mazzoni and Josh Edgin. See the full travel list here.

Friday, remember, is Matt Harvey Day against the Detroit Tigers at Tradition Field. He faces David Price. Noah Syndergaard follows Harvey. That 1:10 p.m. game will be televised by SNY.

Thursday’s news reports:

• The Mets beat the Braves, 8-2, in Wednesday’s Grapefruit League opener at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Kirk Nieuwenhuis went 4-for-4 and catcher Johnny Monell launched a three-run homer. After Dillon Gee surrendered two first-inning runs and added a perfect second frame, Jon Velasquez, Jack Leathersich, Zack Thornton, Dario Alvarez, Akeel Morris and Erik Goeddel combined on a shutout the rest of the way. Wilmer Flores departed the game in the fifth after being hit on the left pinkie by Matt Capps. Flores said he is uninjured. He is not scheduled to make Thursday’s trip to Viera anyway.

Read more on the extra-wheel Gee in the Post, Daily News, Times, Record and at NJ.com and MLB.com.

Lucas Duda swung a bat Wednesday for the first time in three weeks. Duda, who took 25 swings off a tee, had been idle since straining the intercostal muscle on his left side before camp officially began.

“I felt really good, no issues,” Duda told the Post back at Mets camp. “I have plenty of time to get where I need to be.”

Daniel Murphy is going to refrain from speaking further about his religious beliefs and homosexuality after voicing his opinion on Billy Bean’s visit to camp and creating headlines. On Wednesday, Bean penned a column in which he was respectful of Murphy’s opinion. Bean, MLB’s ambassador for inclusion, wrote for MLB.com:

After reading his comments, I appreciate that Daniel spoke his truth. I really do. I was visiting his team, and a reporter asked his opinion about me. He was brave to share his feelings, and it made me want to work harder and be a better example that someday might allow him to view things from my perspective, if only for just a moment.

Read more in Newsday, the Daily News and at NJ.com.

• A billboard imploring Mets owners to sell the team is now visible heading southbound on I-95, about eight miles north of the Mets’ spring-training complex. Two billboards are planned for Roosevelt Ave. near Citi Field in April. Read more in the Daily News.

• Lunch-gate officially has run its course. David Wright said he treated Syndergaard like he would one of his brothers, but expressed regret about confronting Syndergaard about being in the clubhouse during an intrasquad game within media earshot. Syndergaard accepted responsibility and said veteran players meant no malice. Bobby Parnell offered an explanation for dumping the top prospect’s lunch. Watch video of Syndergaard and Wright discussing the matter here. Read more in the Journal, Times, Post, Daily News, Newsday, Record and at NJ.com and MLB.com.

Zack Wheeler is opposed to shifts. David Schoenfield at ESPNNewYork.com explores whether that’s warranted.

• Wheeler is talking big about the Mets’ chances in the NL East. Writes columnist John Harper in the Daily News:

Zack Wheeler was talking about how much fun it will be matching up against the Nationals this season, when suddenly he turned the conversation in a direction that suggests the Mets are itching to prove a little something against the NL East champs.

“I guarantee you we all saw what Bryce Harper said,’ ” Wheeler said with a smile.

When they signed Max Scherzer? The Mets right-hander nodded.

“He said, ‘give me my ring,’ ” Wheeler continued. “We’re going to make it hard for him to get that ring, I’ll guarantee you that.”

• Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post speaks with hitting coach Kevin Long about remaking Curtis Granderson's swing. “We’re trying to preset his hands,’’ Long told Kernan. “Get him in the perfect hitting position so the hands are ready to fire and he can go as efficiently as possible from point A to point B. We have a blueprint to go off of this time. Before we were kind of piecing it together.”

From the bloggers … Mets Report suggests Wright did right by admitting his own mistake, too.

BIRTHDAYS: Mike Hessman turns 37.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU’RE UP: Would you start Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler or another pitcher on Opening Day?