The New York Mets’ Dillon Gee was struck by serious injury last year just as he was establishing himself as one of baseball’s best young pitchers, but as 2013 spring training approaches, he is primed for a full comeback.
The right-handed Gee joined the Mets’ organization as a 21st-round draft choice in 2007. He was solid, yet unspectacular, in the minors, earning a brief stint in the majors in 2010, where his 2.18 ERA in 33 innings made him seem like a veteran.
He became a full-time member of the New York starting rotation in 2011, going 13-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 30 games (27 starts).
He was on his way to another solid season last year, going 6-7 with a 4.10 ERA in 17 starts, when he was suddenly faced with a crisis in early July.
After experiencing numbness in fingers on his throwing arm, Gee was diagnosed with a blood clot, which he had immediately removed, but it caused him to miss the remainder of the season.
Although Gee’s procedure went smoothly, it was unknown if and when he could resume his baseball career. Mets’ manager Terry Collins shared his fears about the pitcher’s future to the New York Times’ Ken Belson, telling him, “I’m really nervous for him, really scared for him. I just know that in the past, guys’ careers could be over if their arm doesn’t respond to the treatment.”
Fortunately, Gee responded well to his surgery and rehab, even throwing off a mound in New York before the end of last season.
He enters spring training optimistic about his health and ability to pitch a full season. He recently told ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin that he’s been fully cleared, declaring, “I had a couple of more tests, and they said I'm good to go. Everything was normal.”
Despite his rapid recovery, Gee still suffers some lingering effects from the clot, according to what he told Rubin:
Let's say if it's less than 35 degrees and I'm outside for much more than 30 minutes without gloves on, then my fingers will still go numb. But that's actually getting better, too. I mean, right after the surgery, they would go numb if it was 50 degrees outside. Over time it'll keep getting better, but that's going to take a while. My fingertips were damaged pretty badly because of all the blood clots I've been throwing through all the years. But it's definitely way, way better.
I have a nitroglycerine cream that I can rub on my fingers, and it's supposed to dilate the blood vessels and make it where the blood actually gets down there better. But I hunted this offseason and it was like 20 degrees. I just kept my hand in my pocket with a hot pack on it and it was fine.
The early season weather in New York could trigger Gee’s side effects, but he is more than prepared to deal with such issues if they surface.
He’s currently focused on solidifying his spot in a Mets’ rotation that includes Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Shaun Marcum. Starter Zach Wheeler is one of the team’s top prospects and is nearly major-league ready, but if Gee returns to form, he could make New York’s decision difficult if they need to clear a space for the youngster.
Instead of feeling timid, Gee, who will turn 27 shortly after the start of the season, is excited about the newfound freedom he will have from being healthy, as he told the New York Daily News’ Anthony McCarron:
The doctor said he was surprised I could recover every five days as it was, with the lack of blood and oxygen, so hopefully that will make it that much easier to bounce back after every start. You never know what the future holds, but we have a lot of positive signs going…
My main goal right now is to make sure I’m healthy and I don’t see why I shouldn’t be.
Gee is just happy to be past his big scare and able to resume his baseball career. Mets’ fans will be even more ecstatic if he can pick up where he left off and solidify the team’s rotation.
Statistics via BaseballReference