PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) Dillon Gee returned to the Mets rotation as part of an open competition for the fifth starter job.
Gee and fellow candidate Rafael Montero both worked three-plus innings and Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson homered as the split-squad Mets beat Houston 3-1 at Tradition Field.
Gee, 7-8 with a 4.00 ERA in 22 starts last season, had been relegated to the bullpen when spring training began because of Matt Harvey's return from elbow surgery. Gee now appears to have regained a rotation spot because of Zack Wheeler's season-ending torn elbow ligament.
Gee threw 47 pitches, walked two and struck out nine without allowing a run.
''More than anything, I was just trying to work on all (of my pitches) and throw strikes. The last few outings out of the bullpen, you're almost not afforded the time to work on a lot of different pitches,'' Gee said. ''I just need to take this time to refine all four because I need all four as a starter.''
Montero, who had a 2.69 ERA in four minor-league seasons working almost exclusively as a starting pitcher, said he has not been told his status. He allowed an RBI double to Jonathan Villar in the seventh inning.
''I haven't heard that conversation yet. I don't control that and am not worried about that. I'm just trying to get my work in,'' the Dominican righthander said through an interpreter. ''I'm just ready to throw whatever I'm told.''
Cuddyer and Granderson hit solo homers off former Mets pitcher Collin McHugh. Cuddyer's first-inning homer was his third of spring training and Granderson's fourth-inning drive was his second.
Travis d'Arnaud added an RBI double in the sixth for New York.
Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen suggested not putting much stock in the pitching order against Houston.
''I still think it's a competition between Montero and Gee. They're both quality pitchers, and we're not going to be hamstrung by either one of them,'' Warthen said. ''They'll both do a good job for us.''
Dallas Keuchel will be the opening day starter when Houston hosts Cleveland on April 6. Scott Feldman was named the starter for the second game.
First-year Astros manager A.J. Hinch said McHugh will pitch either the final game of the three-game homestand against the Indians or at Texas in the Rangers' home opener.
Hinch said he has high expectations for McHugh, who spent six seasons with the Mets organization.
''In a lot of ways, we're trying to physically make sure he's ready to get 30-plus starts,'' Hinch said of McHugh, 27, who led all major league rookies in ERA (2.73) and opponents' batting average (.208) last year.
''He's got weapons to attack opponents' weaknesses, which is key when you're a starting pitcher trying to get through a lineup three or four times.''
Astros: McHugh allowed four hits and two runs. He struck out three and did not issue a walk.
Mets: Gee said he was able to work his entire repertoire in his second start, adding, ''when you're throwing just one inning (in relief), it's tough to get in all of your pitches.''
Astros: Houston will host the Washington Nationals in a 1:05 game on Friday. RHP Sam Deduno will start in place of LHP Brett Oberholtzer. The Nationals will start RHP Max Scherzer.
Mets: New York will be at home on Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals in a 1:10 game. RHP Bartolo Colon will start for New York and face St. Louis RHP Michael Wacha.
Astros: C-OF Evan Gattis (right wrist discomfort) still has not been cleared to take swings. The slugger was scratched from Sunday's game against Washington but did participate in defensive drills in the outfield earlier in the week. .Oberholtzer (lat strain) is playing catch but has not thrown off the mound yet after being injured against St. Louis on March 10. A certain lock for the rotation before the injury, Oberholtzer will not pitch Friday in his normal spot and will continue to be monitored by the staff.
Mets: Terry Collins said RHP Bobby Parnell will pitch in a minor-league game Friday. The reliever had Tommy John on April 8. ... LHP Josh Edgin (elbow) was bandaged up and walking around clubhouse Thursday morning. The reliever - New York's only left-hander in the bullpen - had Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. Edgin, who hopes to be ready for opening day in 2016, decided on Sunday to have the surgery.