PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In a two-word response to a simple question posed to him on Monday afternoon, manager Terry Collins provided insight into two areas.
"Was what you saw from Dillon Gee this morning the best performance you've seen in this camp?" was the question.
"So far," was the response.
And there you have it. The manager praised his pitcher and, in the same breath, asked for more -- but not only from Gee.
Collins doesn't need a weather forecast to know which way the wind blows. Whether his objective is reaching for the star that general manager Sandy Alderson has placed in the sky -- 90 victories -- or merely eliciting more from his starting pitchers, he made his statement properly and wisely. He knows that this Mets team will go no further than its pitching takes it. He anticipates few 8-7 scores.
But the best-case scenarios that pass through his brain bring visions of his team winning a dozen or so 2-1 games, maybe 10 others decided by 3-2 scores and an occasional 1-0 game.
Collins and his pitching coach, Dan Warthen, are within their rights to think about the team's hurlers and not feel guilty as they might if they were to conjure frequent bat-around-the-order innings from their projected lineup.
As Yogi Berra once postulated about another generation of Mets, "If the pitching don't get it done, it don't get done."
To get it done early in the pending season -- or at least until Noah Syndergaard persuades the club's policymakers -- the Mets have Jon Niese as the Opening Day starter, Zack Wheeler as the tallest starter, the one with the highest ceiling, Bartolo Colon as the senior citizen, and a fifth member of the rotation, who probably won't be identified until the final week of the month.
And they have the under-the-radar Gee -- who, in his way, is as much an artist as Colon and probably more predictable than the others.
Gee is a little bit of each of the other definites, the starter with stuff, potential, a high ceiling and a knack for flummoxing hitters that belies the date on his birth certificate. On this March Monday, he was a bit of a tease, too.
He showed some special stuff against the Marlins in a "B" game, and it made his manager greedy.
"Outstanding," Collins said. "It may be the best I've seen him throw."
Gee's fastball touched 93 mph, his curve elicited a "great" from Collins and his changeup was as good as ever. And that's pretty good.
Now, as someone wrote after Don Larsen's perfect game, "Let's see him do it again."
"I'd like to," Gee said. "This is the way it used to be. This is the way I used to feel."
That was before his arm required surgery in 2012 and his head needed the 2013 season to convince his arm that all was well.
Gee was smiling hours after he had thrown the last of his economical 45 pitches (32 of them for strikes) on Monday. As he discussed his latest outing -- a scoreless, four-inning start -- the smile became broader. The lights behind his eyes became brighter.
"I'm very excited," he said, a statement of the obvious.
Gee had dipped into his past -- he's merely 27 -- and presented a few déjà vu moments.
"It's the first time in a long time I've felt this good," he said. "This is the way it used to be. The way the ball came out of my hand was great."
Exactly what led to the physical flashback was unclear, even to Gee, who had spent hours on the mound in the previous four days.
"Maybe more than I should have," he said. "I worked a lot with Dan [Warthen]. We made mechanical adjustments. And today it all just clicked.
"If I can throw better than that, I don't know. I'm really excited."
"He should be," Warthen said.
Gee surrendered two hits, walked none, struck out three and did a good impersonation of a staff ace. He probably won't be that with Wheeler in place, Syndergaard possibly responding to a May Day heyday and with Matt Harvey probably plotting to sneak into a game after Labor Day.
But if the Mets are to have the sort of depth in the rotation that can survive meager offensive support, Gee will have a place in Collins' world. For one day, at least, he looked quite special, the best of any pitcher in camp.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.