Dillon Gee powers through pain
Mets righty fought through tough times to get where he is
The phone call came on the last day of Spring Training, when players are packing up, preparing to depart. The Mets were in Tampa, Fla., for their final exhibition game before flying home to start the regular season. That's when the call came, the call pitcher Dillon Gee won't ever forget.
"My parents called to tell me my brother had been diagnosed with leukemia," Gee said.
Jared Gee is 30 years old and in the prime of his life.
"He's healthy as an ox, and all of a sudden, he's diagnosed with leukemia," Gee said. "You usually don't get leukemia at that age. That phone call ... it was definitely tough. That was a hard way to start the season."
That's nothing new. Things always seem to come hard for Gee, who was a 21st-round Draft choice in 2007 out of the University of Texas at Arlington, where his 298 1/3 innings pitched are the second most in school history. He had thrown two high school no-hitters, missing a perfect game in one of them by just one out. Still, he was hardly considered a can't-miss prospect. Very few 21st-round picks are.
Complicating Gee's situation is that he is pitching with a torn labrum in his shoulder.
"Who's not?" he quipped.
Orthopedists will tell you that the human arm is not constructed for pitching. The stress and strain of throwing baseballs over and over again invariably leads to problems in the shoulder or elbow. Gee's troubles came early.
"In 2009, I missed pretty much the whole year in Triple-A," Gee said. "I had shoulder pain, and they originally diagnosed me with a slight slot tear. I was also told that 80 percent of all pitchers pretty much have it. It's very common for a pitcher to have a slight tear in the labrum. It's just whether or not the symptoms are too severe.
"At that point, I had too much information at the time, and it was bothering me. I just took a lot of time off, rehabbed it and it's felt good for the past two or three years pretty much."
Gee was shut down after nine starts at Triple-A Buffalo in 2009 and did not pitch after May 25 of that year. He came back to win 13 games the next season before being promoted to the Mets. In his first Major League game, he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against Washington, just the second Mets rookie pitcher to do that and the first one to record an RBI in his first game.
The pain was gone. The torn labrum was not. Gee does nothing special to treat the condition.
"My shoulder maintenance routine now is pretty common with every other pitcher," he said. "I do pretty much the same exercises, the same routine as everybody else. It was pretty much the extended rest to be normal. I went through a rehab process to make sure everything around it was strong as it needed to be. The goal is to maintain that now."
Gee fought his way back from an afterthought Draft choice to become a 13-game winner in his rookie season with the Mets last season and an important member of their starting rotation.
"Here's a guy that I consider a complete pitcher," manager Terry Collins said. "He throws strikes. He works fast. He changes speeds."
Gee won his first seven decisions last season, the first Mets rookie pitcher to do so. Then, the start of his second season was jolted with the news about his brother.
"We got some good news," Gee said. "They said he is in remission now. He went through a very strenuous chemo. He's been out of chemo for a couple of weeks and feels great."
Jared Gee has four follow-up treatments ahead of him, and Dillon Gee hopes for more good news after that.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.