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Dillon Gee could go to bullpen because of Mets' starting pitching surplus

Dillon Gee of the Mets stands on the

Dillon Gee of the Mets stands on the mound in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Mets righthander Dillon Gee was hunting for deer when he heard the ring of his cellphone. It was his agent.

Perhaps, Gee thought, the time had come. After all, his name had been at the center of trade rumors -- no surprise given the Mets' wealth of starting pitching. This winter, dread became a close companion, always just a phone call away.

"My agent would call me and as soon as I saw his name on my phone, I thought, 'What's this all about?' " Gee said. "A couple times, I thought something was close."

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But he never received that call, leaving him to face what could be a difficult situation.

With the Mets about to open spring training Thursday, Gee might find himself squeezed out of a talented starting rotation. And because his chances of being traded have nearly evaporated, last year's Opening Day starter could wind up pitching in relief.

"It's not what I want to do," said Gee, who nevertheless is willing to accept whatever role comes his way.

Gee, 28, could find himself without a choice. He wants to remain with the Mets, the organization that took a chance on him in the 21st round of the 2007 draft. But he also wants to start, an opportunity that would come easier elsewhere.

Though the Mets entertained various deals this offseason -- notably with the Rangers -- they found none to their liking. Since then, according to a source, all of the interested teams have moved on.

Injuries could create an opening for Gee, whether it's with the Mets or another team. But barring such an occurrence, general manager Sandy Alderson said the Mets won't be pushing to do a deal, content to enter the season with a surplus.

"If opportunities arise, we'll certainly explore," Alderson said. "But I don't think our situation dictates that we aggressively pursue trade opportunities. That's not something I'm worried about today."

For now, the Mets aren't compelled to set their rotation in stone. That likely won't happen until mid-March, when teams begin giving more innings to those who will begin the season as starters.

"We'll address it when the time comes," Alderson said.

Gee said the uncertainty hasn't changed the way he's prepared for the season. His focus remains on moving past the inconsistency that led to a 7-8 mark and a 4.00 ERA in 2014.

A strained lat muscle cost him two months. When he returned, Gee said he wasn't himself. He established himself as a big-leaguer through deception but found himself overthrowing.

Said Gee: "I'm at my best when I kind of stay at the 85, 90 percent range."

Perhaps worst of all, Gee said he simply had tried too hard to regain his form. Forcing the issue led to more trouble.

"There's an acronym for try: It's 'to ruin yourself,' " he said. "And that's what I was doing. I just wasn't the same. But like I said, I think this year's going to be a good year for me wherever it is."

With Gee and the Mets, that could remain an open question throughout spring training.

"I'm at their mercy," he said. "I'll do what they say."

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