Dillon Gee could still lose his job to Rafael Montero

By on April 18, 2015

We spent Friday evening in a parallel universe where fans packed Citi Field, nearly 39,000 by the official count, and joined in screaming “Let’s Go Mets!” while Jeurys Familia nailed down the save.

These were the same people dancing and partying when Juan Lagares dove for a shoestring catch in the seventh, having earlier gone bonkers upon seeing Bartolo Colon drive in a run. All this, capping a week that included a home opener, a Harvey day sweep of the Phillies, a David Wright injury, and more.

This Mets season so far insists on being interesting, a change from the past half-decade. And we can now add rotation intrigue to the many storylines. According to Major League sources, the team is still eager to trade Dillon Gee, and views Rafael Montero as likely to take Gee’s spot.

Talking to people inside and outside the organization following the surprise demotion of Montero to Triple-A on Friday, it was clear that the competition between Gee and Montero did not end when the the team headed north from Port St. Lucie.

Contrary to the general perception that the Mets viewed Gee as the obvious replacement for Zack Wheeler, after Wheeler’s season-ending Tommy John surgery, Mets people have discussed the relative merits of Gee and Montero for weeks.

Here’s where it stands, as of today: Montero will return on April 28 to make a spot start in Miami, forming a temporary six-man rotation. The team did not announce its plans from there. If Gee pitches well, he will not lose his job; if he struggles, the leash is short.

All the while, the Mets remain hopeful of finding a trade match for Gee and his $ 5.3 million salary, which they were unable to do last winter. His situation is similar to Ike Davis’ last year, when a willingness to move a player extended into the season, before the Mets finally struck a deal to send Davis to Pittsburgh on April 18.

Gee could go anytime, if a need arises elsewhere. If the Mets are unable to move him, Montero will eventually replace Gee in the rotation, barring injury or regression. According to sources, there is no debate that Montero will get the first opportunity, before prospects Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.

As a reliever, Montero hardly appeared polished before his demotion. During one appearance in Atlanta, he threw only fastballs, raising the ire of pitching coach Dan Warthen. On Thursday against Miami, he lacked any feel for his slider, which sailed far wide of the strike zone.

Terry Collins framed those issues as a result of the transition from starting to relieving.

“In order to pitch at this level, you have to be able to use all your pitches,” the manager said. “I think he felt, there were times when he came into the game that, he was in a situation where, like a lot of starting pitchers, they work certain things so they set up a certain pitch. He didn’t have that option, and so we want to go lengthen him out. We also wanted (him) to get back to the feel for the other pitches.”

Other Mets people also framed the command issue — uncharacteristic for a pitcher whose success depends on precision, not power — as a function of Montero’s inexperience in the routines of relief pitching. Far from being concerned, the Mets remained hopeful that Montero could soon be an effective major league starter.

Meanwhile, Gee is forced to endure more uncertainty about his own future. In two starts this year, he is 0-1, with a 7.59 ERA, but looked somewhat better than those numbers. Last weekend in Atlanta, he was guilty of one bad inning; on Thursday, he was a Giancarlo Stanton victim.

After seeing his name mentioned in trade rumors since December, the classy veteran will work and act as he always does — but make no mistake, Gee is fighting for his job.

The urgency that some in the organization feel to make this move underscores the heightened drama. From the clubhouse to the front office, this team believes it can compete in the National League East, and will make in-season tweaks accordingly.

Just ask the people who spent their night jumping and screaming in the stands: This year might actually matter.

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Baseball – NY Daily News

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