By Rich Coutinho
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When the Mets convened in spring training, Dillon Gee knew a lot would have to fall right for him to be on the team’s Opening Day roster.
He was aware the Mets were counting on Chris Young, Chris Capuano, R.A. Dickey, Mike Pelfrey, and Jonathan Niese to be in the rotation, so he was likely heading to AAA Buffalo. But he certainly made an impression on everyone that saw him in Port St. Lucie because Dillon Gee does not ‘wow’ you with his stuff as much as he bowls you over with his poise and professionalism. It is funny that in today’s game of baseball we are so preoccupied with the radar gun and sometimes forget it is pitching—not throwing and Gee is living proof we all need to re-evaluate that philosophy.
Most teams passed on him in the amateur draft as he slipped to the 21stround. 662 players were picked before Gee was snared by the Mets. “It kind of motivated me”, says Gee, “because I knew I was a better pitcher than that. And every time I stepped on a minor league field, I knew people might question this or that but I knew I could get hitters out and that’s the bottom line.” Notwithstanding his last start against the A’s, Gee has proven he belongs here.
The youngster had a cup of coffee with the Mets late last year and made the most of it impressing everyone with his poise and command. “He really uses both sides of the plate and is not afraid of anything”, said pitching coach Dan Warthen at the time, “and by not afraid I mean he’ll throw change-ups in 2-0 and 3-1 counts. And that’s something that generally takes young pitchers years to try.”
The other thing that has helped Gee is the time he has spent with veteran Mets pitchers. Sitting in the Mets clubhouse, he glanced towards the locker of Johan Santana saying, “Johan has proven that when you combine stuff with smarts and a will to win you can be great but the impressive thing about Santana is he is not afraid to share information. We all know what a great pitcher he is but ask around this room—he’s a great teammate too and the time I spent with him in the spring has helped me a lot.”
Ironically, Gee knows full well that if Santana returns, someone will be forced to leave the rotation but the unflappable righthander does not worry about that. “You put Santana at the top of this rotation and the sky is the limit, but right now we have to pull the weight here because everyone in this room is thinking playoffs. After all, that’s why we play the sport.”
And he has more than held up his end of the bargain. When you consider Dillon has been terrific nearly every time out with besting both Jair Jurrgens and Tim Hudson in a 10 day period that highlighted his 2011 resume. “Those two games were great,” said Gee, “but the one that sticks out in my mind was the 1-0 win over Livan Hernandez because it was a tense encounter knowing he was on top of his game. That game was fun because I was going against a guy that has seen it all.”
For Dillon Gee, things look real easy right now but his journey has been anything but easy. His climb to the majors had two common themes: he throws strikes and gets tougher when there are men on base. “That is the most amazing thing about Gee,” says catcher Josh Thole, “he gets more focused as the situation gets tougher. Runner on third less than two outs most young pitchers muscle up and try to overthrow but he is all about good mechanics and really focusing on executing every pitch even in the most trying of circumstances.”
Opponents agree. Mets killer Chipper Jones said, “He’s the type of pitcher that could give you a comfortable 0-for-4 in that he doesn’t overpower you, but God he throws each pitch where he wants and sets up hitters like a veteran hurler.”
It is funny how baseball seasons take strange twists and turns. When David Wright, Ike Davis, and Chris Young went down with injuries, the team was in crisis mode. But out of crisis, comes opportunity. And Dillon Gee has made the most of it by knocking in the door, reserving a place in the room and making a difference.
Can Gee be a long term asset in the Mets rotation? Leave your comment below.