Curveball Leads Gee's Charge

Gee finished 10-6 with a 2.92 ERA in 2008

Dillon Gee, the Mets' 21st round selection in the 2007 Draft, had a strong season in St. Lucie in 2008 after a fine rookie performance in Brooklyn. He followed up his success in High-A with a smooth transition to Double-A which only further confirmed his growing confidence. But to Gee, none of it could have been possible without the rapid improvement of his curveball.

It is often that the jump from short-season rookie ball to the High-A leagues acts as an important barometer for second year prospects. For 22-year-old right-hander Dillon Gee, it was no different. But in one season, Gee executed such valuable growth that it has significantly altered his standing among the organization's highest ranking prospects.

That promising development can be singularly found in his curveball. He was sharp in his rookie season as he posted a 3-1 record with a 2.47 ERA and a dazzling 56/9 strikeout-to-walk ratio with Brooklyn in 2007, but to compete and win in St. Lucie, he knew adding a fourth pitch was imperative. Alongside St. Lucie pitching coach Dan Murray, Gee found the feel and rhythm of the pitch.

"I hadn't really thrown a curveball my entire life outside of just tinkering with it a little, said Gee. "But down in Florida, Coach Murray really helped me with it, get my finish and the down break on the curveball."

"I'd have to say Murray was the main contributing factor to the success of the curveball and really where I was headed this year."

The curveball helped establish him in the Florida State League as he posted a 3.82 ERA in the season's first two months despite a 4-5 record for his struggling club. But the continued use and effectiveness of his curveball helped him peak in June when he posted a 3-0 record and 0.92 ERA.

"I think adding my curveball early on in the year gave me that fourth pitch I can throw for a strike and really kept me going throughout the year," he added.

But the curveball did not give him just another pitch to employ; it forced him to mature his entire approach. With two breaking balls now in his possession, Gee had to pick his moments not just with his curve but how to better use his slider—the comparatively weaker of the two pitches. That depth made him tougher the longer the at-bat.

"Throughout the year, I just continued to attack hitters and throw strikes, what I'm always trying to do out there, but learning how to mix my breaking pitches is something I had to really learn."

"Early on in the season, my slider was not really a pitch I could control as much as a curveball. So when I needed to just throw strikes, I was using my curveball but in an 0-2 count when I'd throw something in the dirt I'd go to my slider. I really focused on pitch selection in different counts and that got me going."

Gee feels having to diversify his pitches in St. Lucie is what ultimately led him to pitch so effectively upon his promotion to Binghamton. With the B-Mets, he went 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA [4 ER in 27 IP] in four starts with a meager .194 opponent's batting average and 20/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The success was a result of simply maintaining the same pitching pattern—mixing pitches, pounding the strike zone—that has carried him throughout his young career. His first stint is Double-A has also reinforced the confidence he gained while in St. Lucie.

"When I got the call, I was really surprised but when I got up there and was working with [B-Mets pitching coach] Ricky Bones, he was preaching pretty much the same thing—stay low and throw strikes and that's what I did."

"Anytime you jump a level and do well, it proves to you that you belong there. What I was able to do to in Binghamton gave me confidence knowing I could succeed against better hitters and it all started with adding depth in St. Lucie, and I feel more confident that ever right now."

InsidePitchMagazine.com Recommended Stories