Though the NY-Penn League is well known as a pitching-friendly league, especially for rookies, one's performance in the short-season league can be used as a strong measuring stick heading into a sophomore season. For St. Lucie right-hander Dillon Gee
, looking back on his experience and numbers accumulated in Brooklyn appear to be a strong indicator of what was to come in the Florida State League.
However the beginning of Gee's season did not go the way he hoped. He surrendered 13 earned runs in 19 innings through his first four starts, including six walks. Though he did allow just 22 hits in those 19 innings, the six walks were alarming for Gee considering he only allowed nine free passes in 62 innings in 2007. Yet, it was a sharp performance on April 26 against the Palm Beach Cardinals
that put him on the right track.
That evening, Gee allowed only one earned run—a solo home run—in six innings and struck five against zero walks. In that start, he worked quickly, efficiently and demonstrated a strong ability to mix his pitches and hit consistent locations. It was a start he believes set the tempo for success that has carried him over the last few weeks.
"That start [on April 26] was a real good night and since then I've been feeling really good about the way I've been pitching. Lately I've been pitching the way I expect out of myself," said Gee.
He admits that the first month of the season was a learning process in which he formulated ways of not only attacking Florida State League hitters, but educating himself on becoming a more mature pitcher.
"Coming into this league, I knew it was going to be a bit of challenge to really get going. I've had a few bad outings but I feel like my game is really coming around. It's definitely different in this league and right now I'm still getting used to pitching here. It comes with its tough times but I'm getting more confident with each start."
"I'm taking away something from each start and the important thing is to find a way to use something I've corrected each time out."
The primary focus for Gee is having greater consistency against opposing hitters. Coming from the aforementioned pitcher-friendly league to a league kinder to hitters, he must rely on his control, which has been reliable so far throughout his career and has improved over his last four starts. Before Sunday's start, Gee had walked just one hitter in his last 25.2 innings pitched and knows that it has been key to his turn-around.
"The hitters are a lot more aggressive here and all of us are finding out we need to be a lot smarter about [our] decisions out there. Mistakes are going to be taken advantage of, which makes consistency really important. You can't leave balls up in this league and you can't walk hitters. Keeping my walks down will definitely lead to more consistent starts," he explained.
Gee aims to pound the lower half of the zone with his late-moving two-seam fastball and his curveball/slider duo. His constant ability to keep the ball at knee level is the leading reason as to why he threw four straight quality starts [before Sunday]
while striking out 24 hitters and surrendering only a single home run throughout the entire season.
"I'm always looking to stay down in the zone. In Brooklyn, I had a tendency of leaving balls up in the zone too much and I could get away with there, but that's only going to lead to problems in this league if it happens to often," he said.
"I'm always working on staying at the knees, but the thing that really stays with me is that I do throw a like of strikes in my outings which is good, but they need to be even more quality strikes now."
As he continues to improve all facets of his game, he can look back at the last three weeks and know that the adjustments he has made since that rough start will go a long way towards a complete resume at the season's end.
"The quality of my pitching has been changing with each start whether it's been good or bad. But, my pitches have been there for me which has made the transition to this league easier, not to say it doesn't have its tough nights, but it definitely makes things smoother. If I can hold onto what I've been doing lately, I feel like I'll be where I want to be," he closed.
Dillon Gee, the Mets' 21st round pick in last season's draft, displayed tremendous command and control as an important cog in the Brooklyn rotation during his rookie campaign. After rocky outings to start the 2008 season, Gee has begun to settle down in and now looks to get stronger and more stable with each start.
The St. Lucie right-hander is gaining momentum in May
Gee leads St. Lucie with 49.2 innings pitched