Zack Wheeler is the biggest name pitcher left on the New York Mets’ staff, though Dillon Gee getting the start on Opening Day was a well-deserved karmic reward for the young righty. A season after serious surgery to remove a blood clot in his pitching shoulder, Gee bounced back to become the Mets’ second-best starter last year behind Matt Harvey. After the 2013 All-Star break at Citi Field, one could argue Gee was the best pitcher in the National League.
Yet as recently as two weeks ago, Gee’s impressive end to last year wasn’t going to translate into a start on Day 1 of 2014. Jonathon Niese was scheduled to throw until his elbow flared up on Mar. 21. After that — and even before — many fans were clamoring for the aforementioned phenom Wheeler to open Citi Field with some heat. I was one of them.
But seeing Gee, who overcame a two-run second inning to retire 15 batters in a row at one point, on cruise control out there, cutting up the fearsome Washington Nationals lineup felt like the Mets made the right decision on this one.
Gee has shown the talent to be a borderline ace on many teams or better if he can get his WHIP down a point or so (career 1.300, not great). On the Mets, he’ll never face that kind of expectation — not with Wheeler, Niese, Bartolo Colon and soon again Harvey on the team. The pressure is off and Gee will have the luxury of not having to think this season, just throw. Simply being able to play baseball again means Gee is already the biggest winner on the Mets, having faced at minimum a career-threatening injury and coming all the way back to go eyeball-to-eyeball and pitch-for-pitch with Stephen Strasburg. That guy’s only one of four pitchers in MLB history to have over 500 strikeouts and a sub-3.00 ERA in his first four years (Herb Score, Dwight Gooden and Tim Lincecum are the other three).
Gee pitched well enough to win his first start but got a no-decision after the bullpen couldn’t hold a lead. He might have to get used to that. In all, this was a great step towards what I believe will be a season of excellence from Gee. Safely tucked in the center of the Mets’ rotation, the 27-year-old Texan doesn’t have to worry about any of the chaotic vortices swirling all around him. No matter what happens with the team, he’s already survived the worst. Not even the most horrid sort of organizational mismanagement can take that from him. As long as “Don’t Think, Just Throw” remains the mantra, everything will be right in Gee’s universe.