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Gee struggles to find rhythm in spot start

NEW YORK -- As Dillon Gee walked off the mound just 3 2/3 innings into the Mets' eventual 10-8 win against the Braves, there were no theatrics. The right-hander didn't yell into his glove, stomp his feet or even protest when his manager came to collect the ball.

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In a game he wasn't originally scheduled to start, Gee gave up 11 hits and eight runs. Terry Collins had seen enough, and moved to the bullpen in the fourth inning.

Gee's reaction to a second consecutive rough start was minimal. Just another moment in what has become an erratic season for him.

"It's been a tough go lately," he said.

Gee started this season firmly in the Mets' rotation. Since then, he's spent a month on the disabled list, had a place made for him in the club's short-lived six-man rotation and subsequently been sent back to the bullpen. Now he's a spot starter, slotting into the rotation sporadically to rest the Mets' higher-profile young arms.

Along the way, he's pitched to a 5.90 ERA in 39 2/3 innings. In five previous Major League seasons, he held a 3.91 ERA.

The Mets didn't even name Gee as Sunday's starter until Friday, deciding it was a good opportunity to add an extra day of rest for Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. They pushed back each pitcher's start, and in went Gee.

Then came Gee's poorest start since giving up eight runs on Aug. 22, 2011. The damage came steadily: seven of the 11 hits Gee allowed were singles, and only Jace Peterson's second-inning home run plated multiple runs at once.

Collins said the problem was simple: No matter what pitch Gee threw, it ended up over the middle of the plate. Recognizing the fix is a little more difficult.

"That's just something this guy doesn't do," Collins said. "He hasn't pitched in the middle of the plate in seven years. There's got to be some factor that's going on there, and I've got to get to the bottom of it, for sure."

Gee has publicly expressed his displeasure with being in the bullpen, saying last week the move limited his value -- both to the team and on the trade market. He'll stay there for at least the next week, as Collins plans to run through a normal five-man rotation.

But Collins was sure to emphasize Gee's value to the team, even in a limited role. He may not start every fifth day like he's used to, Collins said, but he still needs to work through this patch.

"We've got to figure out a way to get him through that," Collins said. "We need him."

Alden Woods is an associate reporter for
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