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Tenacious Dillon Gee earns a high five for delivering stellar performance in Mets' rotation

Dillon Gee #35 of the New York Mets

Dillon Gee #35 of the New York Mets pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on Wednesday, April 22, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

A few lockers down from where Matt Harvey chatted Wednesday night about using tape to stabilize a stubborn left ankle sprain, Dillon Gee explained his efforts during the past week to repair a damaged psyche.

Even the rotation for the best team in baseball -- yes, we're referring to the virtually invincible Mets -- needs to be patched up on occasion. Sometimes it's tape. Other times, it's a talk, like the one Gee had with Terry Collins in the manager's office the after his previous start.

"He was a little frustrated with the whole scenario," Collin said after the Mets' come-from-behind, 3-2, win over the Braves. "Over the winter, spring training. All that he's had to do. He said, it's time for me to go pitch, to pitch my kind of baseball."

Collins assured Gee that he didn't owe him an explanation, that he deserved to be in the rotation. "You've just got to go do your job," the manager told him.

A fitting slogan for this entire Mets' roster, really. If not for Zack Wheeler needing Tommy John surgery six weeks back, Gee would be in the bullpen now, trying to be a middle reliever on the best team in baseball rather than a reliable No. 5.

Last season, Gee was the Mets' Opening Day starter. Now he has the kind of fragile job security that can be threatened by someone like Rafael Montero, who was demoted last Friday to prepare for an April 28 spot start that may or may not bounce Gee from the rotation eventually.

That possibility is not something Gee worries about as much as he used to. Not since that sit-down with Collins, who is showing that he has more of a feel for this team than any of his past four.

"I think I just needed to talk and he was there for me," Gee said. "I was going about things the wrong way. It boils down to me. No excuses"

So with a clear head, and despite a 7.59 ERA coming in, Gee mostly kept the Braves in check for seven innings. He allowed eight hits, but only two runs. And when you give the Mets a chance to win these days, they usually do -- especially at Citi Field, where they won their 10th straight and improved to 9-0 on this homestand.

Gee benefitted from some nifty defensive plays, including a spectacular Willie Mays-caliber catch from Juan Lagares that must be seen to be believed. But he also helped himself with a daring, off-balance throw to second to start a double play that erased a bases-loaded threat in the fourth inning. As we've come to expect from Mets pitchers, Gee issued only one walk -- it was intentional -- for a staff that had the second-fewest walks per nine innings (1.98) in the majors.

Did Gee change the Mets' thinking last night? Probably. Did he have to? Almost certainly. The other factor working to Gee's benefit is that no one else seems capable of taking it away from him. At least not yet. Montero's reluctance to throw anything but fastballs eroded the Mets' confidence in him up here and he'll have to show he's capable of commanding his slider and changeup in today's Vegas start.

Barring injury, Alderson already has committed to going with Montero on April 28, and he does have some major-league experience on his side. And eventually there has to be consideration for Steven Matz, who piggy-backed on Montero's April 19 start.

The former Ward Melville star seems to be ahead of Noah Syndergaard, who is slowly working his way back from forearm stiffness, and has also found his balance after a shaky Triple-A launch this season. Now that the Mets have made an early statement. They're no longer about developing young players at the major-league level. Their standards need to be higher than that.

“If [Montero] has a real bad outing, or if his command’s not there, or his stuff is not there, we have to keep an open mind,” Collins said. “We’re still about winning games up here. This is not a tryout camp.”

For the first time in a while, maybe Gee can believe that.

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