As far as the Mets' rotation goes, Dillon Gee's start at Citi Field was only a piece of a bigger puzzle that still needs to get figured out, and Thursday's events provided as many questions as answers.
The good news, from Sandy Alderson's perspective, is that Gee appears sound, and he did a capable job in the Mets' 2-1 loss to the Padres. On most days, giving up one run in 6 1/3 innings is going to wind up as a win, and if not for a jittery Jeurys Familia yanking a run-scoring wild pitch past John Buck, maybe the Mets would've remained undefeated.
"It's a turning point," said Gee, who made his first regular-season start since the July 13 surgery to repair a damaged artery in his right shoulder. "Hopefully, I can build on it from there."
After three games, the Mets believe they have a foundation in Gee, Jon Niese and Matt Harvey. True, the Padres, minus Chase Headley and Yasmani Grandal, aren't the most formidable lineup. But the Mets can only beat the team in front of them, and their starters have a 1.35 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 20 innings. Beyond that, however, things get a little shaky.
The team announced that Shaun Marcum was diagnosed with "nerve inflammation" and received three "trigger-point injections." He will return to Port St. Lucie Friday. From there, it's another 48-hour cooling-off period, another re-evaluation, and then who knows what.
Translation: Don't expect much of a payoff on the $4 million that Alderson has invested in Marcum, whose return is impossible to guess until he at least gets into a rehab game. That's not happening soon, either.
Instead, the Mets are forced to count on the likes of Jeremy Hefner, who starts Friday night against the Marlins, and Aaron Laffey, the Sunday replacement for Marcum. The Mets catch a break with the visit by Jeffrey Loria's stripped-down franchise, but the wait until Harvey gets the ball again will feel like a second winter.