Morning briefing: Big chance for Hefner

FIRST PITCH: The Mets (2-1) begin their second series of the season on Friday, taking on the Miami Marlins (0-3) at Citi Field, first pitch at 7:10 p.m.

So far, they've gotten quality starts from Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee. But the back end of the rotation is a big question mark.

With Johan Santana sidelined for the season, and Shaun Marcum on the disabled list, manager Terry Collins will hand the ball to Jeremy Hefner on Friday. The 27-year-old righty went 4-7 with a 5.09 ERA in 26 appearances (13 starts) in 2012, his first year in the bigs.

Can Hefner get the job done? Or will the Mets have to look elsewhere?

Hefner will be opposed by 24-year-old right-hander Alex Sanabia, who will be making his 15th major-league start. Sanabia spent most of last season at Triple-A, with just three major-league appearances.

Friday's news reports:

• The Mets suffered their first loss of the season Thursday afternoon, 2-1 to the San Diego Padres. Here are recaps from the Daily News, Post, Times, Newsday, Star-Ledger and Record.

• Gee took the loss on Thursday but pitched well, giving up just one run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings of work. It was his first major-league appearance since last July, when he underwent surgery to repair a damaged artery in his pitching shoulder. That's good news for the Mets, but Newsday columnist David Lennon is still concerned about the Mets' starting rotation. Read on Gee in the Post.

• The Mets' new starting catcher, John Buck, is off to a good start. Buck is 6-for-12 at the plate, and hit his second home run of the season on Thursday, accounting for the Mets' lone run. Here's more on Buck, via the Star-Ledger.

• An MRI in New York revealed inflammation in Marcum's neck. Read more in the Post, Record and Newsday.

• Zack Wheeler lasted only 3 1/3 innings in his debut with Triple-A Las Vegas, while pitching prospect Hansel Robles was forced to leave a start with Class A St. Lucie. Read the full minor league recap here. Read more on Wheeler in Newsday.

From the bloggers ... Shannon from Mets Police was there when Tom Seaver returned 30 years ago today and says it is his favorite memory of Shea Stadium.

BIRTHDAYS: Give a high-five to Lastings Milledge, who turns 28. Milledge is playing for a second straight season with Yakult in Japan.


YOU'RE UP: How confident are you Hefner can get the job done?