Stellar Gee goes long in Twins debut

Stellar Gee goes long in Twins debut

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota manager Paul Molitor peered in closely as Dillon Gee took the mound on Thursday at Target Field. He wanted to see what his newest reliever could offer.

Gee made his Twins debut during a 4-1 loss to the Rangers in the series opener. Against the very team with which he parted ways back in June, Gee tallied a total of nine outs, preserving the bullpen after a short start by left-hander Adalberto Mejia.

In fact, Gee became the first Minnesota reliever to record at least nine outs since Adam Wilk logged 11 on May 21. Gee allowed just two hits, a pair of singles that chased him in the eighth, to go along with his four strikeouts.

"I told him I hadn't seen him pitch, so it was just a matter of time before he got an opportunity," Molitor said. "He gave us an idea on a piece that has been missing. A guy that can come in and eat some innings in those type of ballgames. He did a nice job."

But it was a scene that seemed improbable just a couple months ago.

The Rangers designated Gee for assignment on June 16 after he posted a 4.15 ERA in four outings. He then elected for free agency on June 18. Just a few days later, Minnesota claimed him and put Gee in the big league bullpen on June 22. However, after a few days of not being called upon, the club optioned him to Triple-A Rochester.

Gee stayed there for the entire month of July, where he posted a 2.00 ERA in five starts and awaited his next opportunity. It just so happened it came against his former teammates.

"I'm starting to face teams that released me a couple times now, so I can't have a grudge against everybody," Gee said. "It's just a business, it's just the way it goes. I just try to do well on whatever team I am on at the time."

Gee made sure to make the most of his first showing with the Twins, nonetheless. In his first test, Gee struck out Adrian Beltre with a four-seamer and then got Mike Napoli to swing through the same pitch to end the next at-bat.

In the sixth, Gee walked one batter and hit another before leaving a pair of runners at the corners. He cruised through the seventh, including an inning-ending strikeout of Napoli on a changeup. It matched his season high in strikeouts, as he recorded just 10 whiffs in four games with the Rangers.

But more than that, it was a welcoming sign for a club that has struggled on the mound for much of the year. Gee was the team's 30th pitcher used in 2017, which set a franchise record. And he showed promise in a role that has hindered the Twins this year -- long relief.

"I like it, I feel comfortable in it. It's a role you have to have," Gee said. "[Molitor] said that's my role and it will be nice to have a long guy. They haven't really had a guy down there to eat innings when you need it. Our relievers did awesome tonight, so that was nice to see."

Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.