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Under Collins, Gee has dose of confidence with win

Mets manager works to ensure young starters build self-esteem on mound

NEW YORK -- Not every young pitcher reaches the big leagues with the self-esteem -- or the stuff -- that Jose Fernandez demonstrated last season, that Tim Lincecum displayed in 2007 or that Fernando Valenzuela showed in 1980, before he became a phenomenon. The gestation period for full self-esteem usually is extended, and, early on, the byproduct is often as fragile as a Faberge egg.

The self-esteem of youngens must be protected. And, in an odd twist, the person least capable of providing protection is often the youngen himself. With big league pitchers, protection comes from one of two sources, the manager or the pitching coach, whoever determines how much rope.

So it was Sunday afternoon at Citi Field after Dillon Gee had shut down the Marlins, the team that had scored the third most runs in the Majors through Saturday, for eight innings and wanted the ninth. Mets manager Terry Collins, aka the rope dispenser, said eight was enough and put Carlos Torres in charge of yet another happy ending for the Mets. The starter was finished, and, after a clean ninth, Gee emerged victorious with self-esteem undamaged and shiny.

Collins and Gee's catcher, Anthony Recker, indicated Gee "probably could have continued." Gee said chances at a complete game "don't come easily." Moreover, the Mets had a 4-0 lead, so even if mighty Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' leadoff hitter in the ninth, was to hit one to the Flushing Oil Pits beyond left center, the team's lead would not have been imperiled. A pitching change could be made then.

But the dispenser would afford Gee nary a smidgeon of additional hemp. The pitcher had reached almost unchartered territory; he had thrown 110 pitches, more than in any start since 2012. With no mention of Stanton, Collins later explained the removal of his starter: "We are in a situation where we're trying to really build some momentum here. The one thing I didn't want to have happen was the fourth time through the lineup, to have him hang a slider on the 113th pitch and have something go into the seats."

Which you can interpret as Gee's self-esteem and the team's trust in him are more important than the probability of a complete game and the possibility of a shutout.

Collins preferred that his starter end his workday with an unqualified sense of achievement, recalling afterward a game in which Gee pitched in Atlanta last June. Freddie Freeman changed a potential 1-0 victory to a 2-1 defeat in the ninth inning. He hit Gee's 101st pitch.

The manager also referenced a conversation he had with Gee 11 days earlier. He had removed Gee after seven scoreless innings and merely 72 pitches against the D-backs. Gee told him his intent was to pitch deeper into games and win back the later-inning trust he sensed he had lost. Collins allowed him to throw 110 Sunday, which addressed the pitcher's intent and also protected Gee's self-esteem. So Gee came out ahead in two ways.

We've seen this sort of thing in these parts. Thirty years and five days ago, on an April Sunday in 1984, Davey Johnson had the same objective as Collins, though in substantially different circumstances. In that scenario, Johnson put the development of a starting pitcher, namely Ron Darling, before a chance for his team to win. He too wanted Darling to end his day with a sense of achievement.

So after Darling had surrendered six runs in the first two innings of a game in Philadelphia, Johnson allowed him to bat with two runners on base and two out in the fourth inning. Darling popped out and then returned to the mound to pitch merely one more inning, a third straight scoreless inning, incidentally.

His self-esteem had been more than protected; it had been enhanced. Darling has acknowledged many times since that long-ago Sunday how much he benefitted from Johnson's pay-now, win-later approach.

So, the more things change...

* * * *

I like Ike

The Mets do, or at least they are still interested in the fortunes of their former colleague. One player acknowledged Sunday that he and some of his teammates occasionally have gathered around a clubhouse television to monitor the at-bats Ike Davis has had with the Pirates.

"Hey, Peanuts here"

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, he of the longest surname in big league history, was presented his World Series ring on Sunday at Citi Field. Allard Baird, the Red Sox's vice president of player personnel, made the presentation of the handsome jewelry that had room for three inscriptions special -- "B Strong," the "Bearded Brothers" and the catcher's 14-character last name.

Saltalamacchia was asked whether he had been asked if he would accept his nickname "Salty" on the ring. But he was pleased with the unabridged ID. He was told only two other players had a similar ID -- Salty Parker, who played for the Tigers in 1936 and managed the Mets on an interim basis in 1967 and, of course, former Cubs utility man Peanuts Lowrey.

Marty Noble is a reporter for
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