PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (CBSNewYork) — It’s a good thing the New York Mets still have Dillon Gee.
Manager Terry Collins says Zack Wheeler’s spot in the rotation will be filled by the pitcher who was on the trading block heading into spring training.
The team announced on Monday that Wheeler suffered a fully torn UCL in his right elbow, making reconstructive Tommy John surgery the next step. With the 24-year-old out for the entire 2015 season, Gee is expected to step back into a rotation that includes Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom.
“That’s why we have him,” Collins said of Gee. “He’ll be the guy. … Dillon’s won a lot of games in the big leagues and he’s going to have to step up and fill some big shoes, but he can handle it.”
Gee was the team’s Opening Day starter last year but appeared destined for the bullpen with the Mets carrying a glut of starters into camp. The 28-year-old right-hander, whose strong first half was derailed by a back injury, went 7-8 with a 4.00 ERA in 2014.
He’s scheduled to start Thursday’s exhibition against Houston.
“We’re going to be fine,” Harvey said after throwing four strong innings in Monday’s loss to Boston. “Obviously it’s a big blow to us to have Zack down, but Dillon Gee has won a lot of games and can step in. … I think we have enough experience and we can hold our own.”
Collins said prospects Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz aren’t ready to step in for Wheeler, who was entering his third season after being acquired from San Francisco in the Carlos Beltran trade.
“They’ve got to pitch their way up,” Collins said, according to the Mets’ official website.
Syndergaard entered spring training with much fanfare for the second straight year. But he didn’t help his case Monday, giving up two runs in 2.2 innings to the Red Sox and raising his ERA to 4.91.
“I like him a lot. He’s going to be a real good pitcher, I’ll tell you. There’s going to be a time where you’re going to look up and we’re going to have a lot of real hard-throwing guys in the middle of that rotation,” Collins said of Syndergaard. “When we get toward the end (of spring training), there’ll be some discussions we’ll have with Noah about what we think he’s got to do.”
The 22-year-old said he still hopes to compete for a job, but Wheeler — who was in Syndergaard’s shoes not too long ago — was at the forefront of his mind on Monday.
“I’m praying for Wheeler and hoping he gets a quick recovery,” Syndergaard said. “I know once he gets back out there, he’s going to come back with a vengeance.”