- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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Dillon Gee mostly breezed through four innings, with the exception of surrendering a two-run homer to Prince Fielder in the right-hander’s final frame, but a skeleton Mets squad lost to the Detroit Tigers, 7-6, in 10 innings on Wednesday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.
Rutgers product Jack Egbert, borrowed from minor league camp, allowed a walk-off RBI single to Quintin Berry.
Gee allowed two runs on three hits while walking one and striking out five in four innings.
“I thought today was a really positive day for me,” Gee said. “The past couple of outings I haven’t really felt that great. Me and Dan [Warthen] did a lot of work this week and really got me feeling good. … We made it a point to throw more curveballs today. The other day against the Braves I think I only threw one curveball, maybe two at the most. Today I threw maybe almost 10 curveballs. Because the fastball command has been getting better, it was time to start the next step to really start getting the off-speed stuff going.”
“More curveballs, better changeup, more command,” Terry Collins said.
As for the location of the 0-2 pitch that Fielder pummeled, Gee said: “Not far enough in for that guy, I guess. He’s so strong.”
• Chuck James, primarily vying with Garrett Olson and Josh Edgin for the left specialist role in the bullpen in Tim Byrdak’s absence, walked three in a four-run fifth inning as the Tigers took a 6-4 lead. Still, Collins partly excused the control issue, noting James’ last outing was scrubbed because of rain, meaning he had not worked in a game in five days.
“One of the things we want to see is command of his pitches,” Collins said. “It’s been a while since he’s been out there. … We’ll run him out there again in a few days.”
• All four runs with James on the mound were unearned. That’s because third baseman Wilmer Flores committed two errors on a two-out grounder by Brandon Inge. Flores booted the ball, then threw late and wide to first baseman Zach Lutz, allowing a run to score and Inge to advance to second. James only allowed two hits in the messy inning, with one being an infield single by Fielder.
Flores, who has split time evenly between second and third base in winter ball in Venezuela the past few years, exclusively had played shortstop in the Mets organization since signing at 16 years old. He now is transitioning to primarily third-base duty, but also should see time at second base and shortstop. He also committed two errors in an inning at third base Monday against the Tigers.
Flores, 20, hit .269 with nine homers and 81 RBIs in 516 at-bats last season at Class A St. Lucie. He is being moved off shortstop because his first-step quickness is lacking and because his larger body type is more conducive to another infield position.
“I’m still adjusting to the position,” Flores said. “I feel very good at both [third base and second base]. I just want to play in the big leagues. Wherever they need, I’ll be there.”
As for the challenge of third base, Flores added: “The ball comes quicker. I just need to slow down my game a little bit. I just sometimes try to be too quick. Third base is closer. That’s what happened today.”
Said Collins: “We’ve all seen him. He’s got great talent.”
• The Mets’ scoring outburst came in a four-run third inning against Max Scherzer that was capped by an RBI single from Flores.
The inning began with Matt den Dekker walking. Jordany Valdespin then hit a grounder that struck den Dekker, causing the runner to be out. After Justin Turner struck out and Valdespin swiped second, Daniel Murphy walked and Lutz was hit by a pitch in the right elbow to load the bases.
Mike Baxter then hit a slow roller to second for a run-scoring infield single and Josh Thole and Adam Loewen consecutively walked, forcing in a pair of addition runs. Flores then delivered the RBI single. Thole was thrown out at the plate trying to score a second run on that play.
• Turner was plunked in the left shin/calf in the sixth inning and labored to first base before departing for Omar Quintanilla, although Turner and Collins said his departure was intended at that point even before the plunking. “I’ll be all right,” Turner said.
Lutz has been a magnet for hit by pitches. Bobby Parnell drilled the corner infield prospect in the left elbow in the final intrasquad game. And Lutz was struck twice in the head with pitches last season at Triple-A Buffalo, both times resulting in concussions, which cost him a September call-up to the Mets. “Just got a magnet,” Lutz said.
• Murphy went 0-for-2 with a walk and run scored as DH.
• The Mets had to bring Gee because they did not otherwise meet MLB’s minimum requirements for having enough regular players in an exhibition game once Ruben Tejada (groin) was pulled off the trip. Gee found out late Tuesday afternoon of the change of plans.
The Mets had planned to have Gee face minor leaguers in Port St. Lucie in an intrasquad game and have Matt Harvey face the Tigers, but the assignments got flipped. Harvey threw 75 pitches (58 strikes) back at the Mets’ complex.
Gee said he did not mind the two and a half hour bus ride because it was valuable to face a Tigers lineup that included not only Fielder and Inge, but also Miguel Cabrera and Delmon Young.
• With the Mets lineup depleted, Turner started at shortstop. Lucas May also found himself in an unfamiliar position. He entered at third base in the sixth.
May, primarily a catcher with the Mets and perhaps the best offensive threat among the team’s backstops in camp, came up in the Dodgers as an error-prone shortstop before transitioning mostly behind the plate. He has played one regular-season game at third base as a professional, last season at Triple-A Reno.
May was tested immediately. The first batter of the sixth, Matt Young, bunted in his direction. May made the play without issue.
• Darin Gorski, borrowed from minor league camp, tossed a scoreless ninth inning with the scored tied at 6. Narrowly.
The 24-year-old southpaw -- a seventh-round pick in 2009, who went 11-3 with a 2.08 ERA last season at Class A St. Lucie -- wiggled free of a bases-loaded, two-out jam by striking out Eric Patterson on a full-count offering.
“I know he was pitcher of the year in the minor leagues in our organization,” Collins said. “When you’ve got the likes of [Zack] Wheeler and [Matt] Harvey and [Jeurys] Familia and a number of other guys and this guy is pitcher of the year, it speaks pretty big about the kind of pitcher he is. Not overpowering, but certainly outstanding changeup, good breaking ball, throws strikes. He’s one of those kind of guys you’re going to look up one of these years and he’s going to keep winning 15 games for you.”
• The Mets signed right-hander Craig Fritsch out of a March 1 tryout at the spring-training complex. A 16th-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010, Fritsch made 13 relief appearances in the Gulf Coast League last season with that organization and had a 9.58 ERA.
• The Mets are likely to see Jose Reyes face them on Thursday when R.A. Dickey takes the mound in Jupiter against the Miami Marlins.