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Collins talks rotation after Gee given start

NEW YORK -- Dillon Gee will start on Sunday as the sixth member of the Mets' five-man rotation. Public perception of the team's pitching staff became a "big monster" that manager Terry Collins struggled to control. Collins, despite his waffling, "did not fall off the pumpkin truck."

Such were the oddities of a 19-minute news conference on Friday, during which Collins defended his team's frequent flipping between a five- and six-man rotation. The latest update: Recently demoted sixth starter Gee will pitch the finale against the Braves, but as a spot starter -- not a bona fide member of the rotation.

The Mets initially tried to make their six-man set permanent because they felt it was the easiest way to limit their starters' innings, Collins said, but they abandoned it after realizing how unhappy it made the pitchers and how significant a story it had become in the media.

"I didn't like the looks of it," Collins said. "I didn't like the feeling in the clubhouse that was going on. I didn't like the feeling. I just didn't like it."

Still, the Mets needed to find ways to limit the innings of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, so they tentatively scheduled days for Gee or other spot starters to pitch. Sunday is the first of those, with the Mets in the middle of playing 13 games in 13 days. The rotation as a whole entered Friday with a 5.50 ERA over its last nine games, creating a perception that several of its members -- Harvey included -- could use extra days of rest.

General manager Sandy Alderson called his club's plan a "five-man heavy" rotation as opposed to "six-man lite," and the Mets now say this was always their intention. But there were communication issues. The team did not initially tell Gee that he would be starting so soon after his demotion. Nor did the Mets explicitly state their plan to use regular spot starters until Friday, after enduring days of criticism in the New York media.

"It's drama," Collins said. "We're living in New York City. That's where drama's made. So here's something that can create some drama, be blown out of proportion when it's very minor. I said from the beginning, we don't know how long this is going to last. I said from the first start, we just want to take a look at this to see if it's going to work. Obviously, we knew the reaction of the pitchers, and [the media] went in and felt the temperature of the clubhouse. Nobody liked it."

Candid throughout his media session, Collins nonetheless committed to nothing beyond Sunday, saying only that the Mets still consider this a five-man rotation, and that they need to find ways to supplement that with Gee and others throughout the summer. Injuries or other issues could still affect the plan.

"No one has a crystal ball," Collins said. "We do not know anything of what's going to happen down the road. We were so concerned with 'down the road' that we didn't realize 'down the road' may not happen."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
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