Brewers' Gomez looks like he might have big season
The bats and gloves and other equipment have arrived at the clubhouse. All Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez needs to bring are his joy, verve and smile.
“This is a game I love,” said the 27-year-old Dominican known to some as Go-Go. “Every day, I feel like I'm a little kid.”
A little kid with a jagged edge.
“I play hard,” Gomez said. “I play angry every day. I play with passion. It's not angry like I'm (expletive) off at somebody. It's like: ‘I'm the man. I can control this.' It's not like you want to fight somebody. It's like you want to do everything hard, every time.”
The sugar and spice have helped Gomez cook up a big season for the Brewers. He went 1 for 4 with an RBI in the Brewers' 5-1 win over the Pirates on Monday, dropping his average to .367. That put him one point behind the new National League batting leader — and teammate — Jean Segura, who had three hits Monday. Gomez, who has six homers and 17 RBI, began Monday leading the NL in OPS and total bases.
In 2012, Gomez hit .260 with 19 home runs, both career highs, and played his typically stellar defense. For that, he got a three-year, $24 million contract extension that raised his comfort level and helped him relax.
Many were aware of his multiple talents, but few expected this kind of start.
“The tools have always been there,” Brewers All-Star and former NL MVP Ryan Braun said. “Baseball is just a matter of putting it together. I think he has a better understanding at what he's good at. He's better at controlling his emotions. He's now at a point where he truly has aptitude. He's able to understand where he's at and make adjustments.”
A big man (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) who can run, Gomez stole 33 bases and hit .258 as a rookie starter for the Twins in 2008 after coming from the Mets a trade involving Johan Santana.
“And I had no idea how to play,” he said.
Gomez platooned in 2009, then was traded to Milwaukee, appearing in 97 games in 2010 and 94 in '11 because of inconsistency and injuries. A hamstring injury and a slump marred the first half of Gomez's 2012 season before he finished strong, hitting .279 with 14 homers, 33 RBI and 26 steals from July 16 on.
“Five years in a row, I lost my job,” he said. “And I thought, it's time to change.”
For most of his career, Gomez was asked to bunt and spray the ball around.
“It didn't work,” he said.
So he told manager Ron Roenicke and the coaches: “I want to be me.” e_SNbS
When they asked what he meant, Gomez said: “I said I want to swing the bat. I know what I can do.”
Gomez, who spent part of the offseason working with his friend, former slugger Manny Ramirez, said he's a smarter hitter who has learned to anticipate pitch location. Because of that, he said he always tries to hit a home run.
“That's my approach,” he said. “If you throw me the pitch I'm looking for, I'm going deep. That makes my strike zone small. Because if I don't feel like that, I chase a lot of pitches. Some players don't think like that, but for me, it's working.”
Added Roenicke: “I think he's understanding himself, what he needs to do. He tried to go about it more passive and take more pitches and slap the ball more ball to right. It hasn't worked. Now he swings hard, but he's really under control.”
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.
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