Morning Briefing: Strasburg at Citi 3/31

Tom Uhlman/Associated Press

Stephen Strasburg is expected to start on March 31 against the Mets at Citi Field, on Opening Day.PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

FIRST PITCH: It’s Photo Day for the Mets on Wednesday in Port St. Lucie.

There are two days until the Grapefruit League opener, Friday against the Washington Nationals at 1:10 p.m. at Tradition Field.

First-year Nats manager Matt Williams plans to start Taylor Jordan opposite Rafael Montero on Friday. Jordan is competing with Ross Detwiler and Tanner Roark for the Nats’ fifth-starter role. Here is Washington’s tentative starting lineup, via Mark Zuckerman at Nats Insider:

Nate McLouth, rf

Danny Espinosa, 2b

Ryan Zimmerman, 3b

Adam LaRoche, 1b

Ian Desmond, ss

Wilson Ramos, c

Tyler Moore, dh

Scott Hairston, lf

Michael Taylor, cf

Williams also confirmed Stephen Strasburg is lined up to start Opening Day, on March 31 at Citi Field. That is likely to be opposite Jonathon Niese, according to Terry Collins.

Montero threw live batting practice Tuesday, in advance of starting Friday.

Wednesday’s news reports:

Jeremy Hefner tossed a baseball on consecutive days for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery. “Passed another big hurdle, and feeling good!” Hefner tweeted.

• Free-agent Johan Santana topped out at only 81 mph and largely pitched at 77-78 mph in an audition for seven teams, including the Yankees, at a Fort Myers, Fla., high school, George King reported in the Post. The starting-pitching-deep Mets did not send a scout, notes Marc Carig in Newsday. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

• Jon Heyman at CBSSports.com reports the Tama Bay Rays also have interest in Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin, along with the Mets. A source told ESPNNewYork.com earlier this offseason that the Rays and Mariners were close to pulling the trigger on a deal involving Franklin, but Jeremy Hellickson’s injury limited Tampa Bay’s pitching depth and caused the trade to fall apart. Perhaps coincidentally, the first scout spotted at Mets camp was Joe McIlvaine, the former Mets GM, who works for the Mariners. Read more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

• Collins plans to take David Wright, Curtis Granderson, Travis d’Arnaud and likely one other starter -- maybe Ruben Tejada -- to Las Vegas for split-squad games against the Chicago Cubs on March 15 and 16. Daniel Murphy will not make the trip because his wife is pregnant, Collins said. Murph said the due date is actually not until April 15. His wife plans to give birth to their son in Florida, where her mother is a nurse, so there may be a brief paternity leave involved during the first month of the season.

• A team official told ESPNNewYork.com the Mets were not close to a deal with Stephen Drew. Read more in the Daily News.

Bobby Parnell tells columnist John Harper in the Daily News that he was reassured he would be fine undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk because he watched Peyton Manning, who also underwent the procedure, throw seven touchdown passes against the Baltimore Ravens in one game. Writes Harper:

In fact, Parnell endured essentially the same surgery: the doctor removed two disks from his neck, inserted a cadaver bone, fused it to his vertebrae and, as he describes it, “caged it with titanium." At that the 29-year old right-hander allowed something of a wry smile and said, “It’s not going anywhere."

Anthony Recker approves of the new rule involving collisions at the plate, which does not end them entirely, but does prevent deliberate blows. The Mets have instructed their catchers, particularly d’Arnaud, not to block the plate, even though that is allowed if the ball beats the runner.

Collins said the Mets, and other teams, will argue with umpires and delay until determining whether to challenge a call using instant replay. Regarding umpires making controversial determinations at the plate, Collins said: “I think you’re going to still see a number of ejections. I really do. We’ve got some guys, like myself, who can get fiery at times.” Read more of Collins’ remarks on instant replay and plate collisions in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Journal, Newsday and MLB.com.

Adam Rubin

Kevin Plawecki turns 23 Wednesday.

• D’Arnaud tells columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post that his whole family is ultra-competitive. “I still remember the first time I beat my dad in basketball, he was so mad he ran into the house,” d’Arnaud told Kernan about winning the hoops game as a 9-year-old. “I remember the first time I beat him in ping-pong -- the same thing.’’

• Tim Rohan in the Times writes that the Mets are blessed with two catching prospects: d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.

Jose Valverde is mentoring the young pitchers from his country, which he calls his “Dominican mafia,” writes Mike Puma in the Post.

• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger notes that Recker and Zach Lutz were teammates at Division III Alvernia in Pennsylvania, playing for Lutz’s father Yogi. Only nine of the 1,983 players to appear in the majors last season came from a D-III program, Vorkunov writes.

• Anthony DiComo at MLB.com profiles Jeurys Familia.

From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing finds itself managing its 2014 expectations. … John Delcos at Mets Report writes that motivation should come from within for Ike Davis. … Blogging Mets reports on a push to get a permanent Kiner’s Korner at Citi Field.

BIRTHDAYS: Plawecki, who is expected to open the season at Double-A Binghamton, turns 23. He hit a combined .305 with eight homers and 80 RBIs and had a .390 on-base percentage between Savannah and St. Lucie last season.


YOU’RE UP: Would you rather have Ruben Tejada, Nick Franklin or Stephen Drew at shortstop, taking into account the costs in money or prospects to acquire?