Dillon Gee watches an intrasquad game from the dugout in...

Dillon Gee watches an intrasquad game from the dugout in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Feb. 22, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

JUPITER, Fla. -- After facing major-league hitters for the first time since last July, Mets righthander Dillon Gee offered an honest assessment of his three scoreless innings.

"Rusty," Gee said following Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Marlins in which he gave up three hits and a walk with a strikeout. "But obviously, I'm just excited to get out there and compete again."

Gee had season-ending surgery July 13 shortly after doctors discovered a blood clot in his right shoulder. Throughout camp, Gee has progressed as normal, building up arm strength in preparation for the season.

"I've tried to just put that behind me," he said. "I can't go out there and pitch timid."

Gee, expected to open in the starting rotation, had already pitched in an exhibition against the University of Michigan. But until Sunday, he had yet to face big-leaguers since the surgery. "It's good to see that he's healthy," said manager Terry Collins, who noted "great movement" on Gee's fastball.

Perhaps the only true complaint had to do with nerves. Gee's excitement manifested in fastballs that sailed high in the strike zone.

"You're eight months without having real competition," pitching coach Dan Warthen said. "Yeah, I would expect that from him."


Nieuwenhuis bruises knee

Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis spiked his batting helmet into the ground Sunday, an outburst of frustration after he was forced to leave the game with what the team is calling a bruised left knee.

Nieuwenhuis needed to be carted back to the Mets clubhouse beyond the fence in leftfield. He was scheduled to be examined by doctors following the game.

"It was on the slide," said Nieuwenhuis, who is trying to win a share of a centerfield platoon. "I just hit it on something. Hopefully, it's just a bad bruise. When I went to go take my lead, it just buckled a little bit. I think ligaments are OK. I haven't seen a doctor yet, but I think I've just got a bad bruise."

Nieuwenhuis finished 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout, lowering his spring average to .056.