Gomez living up to 'Go-Go' monicker
Center-field prospect getting things done at plate, on basepaths
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It's taken less than a month with his new team for Carlos Gomez to earn the nickname "Go-Go" from Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.But it's just been in the past two days that Gomez has started to truly live up to the moniker. That's because he's actually getting on base to use his blazing speed. For the first time this spring, Gomez put together a solid day at the plate for two consecutive games. He went 3-for-4 with a home run, a walk and two stolen bases in an 11-2 victory over the Phillies on Saturday afternoon. He also scored three runs and recorded two RBIs in the contest. "Gomez was all over the place today," Gardenhire said after the game. The performance came after the outfielder snapped an 0-for-11 streak on Friday by hitting a double and a triple in his five at-bats against the Pirates. Gomez's offensive outburst has coincided with his recent request to be included on the rest of the road trips this spring. Earlier this week, Gomez had been left off the travel roster for the club's trips to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Bradenton. But by traveling all the time, Gomez feels it will help to increase his number of at-bats and, hopefully, his overall production. "I need more swings, that's what I need," Gomez said. Saturday was the day for Denard Span, Gomez's primary competition for the center-field race, to get the start in center. But there was Gomez on the two-and-a-half hour bus ride to Clearwater as he was slotted for the start in right field. Gomez said he wants the extra at-bats to try and work in some of the changes he's made recently. Over the last few days, Gomez has spent more time in batting cages working with hitting coach Joe Vavra and watching his swing on video to correct a problem in his approach. "Early [in spring], I jumped to the ball and now I'm staying a little more back," Gomez said. "That's why I started hitting the ball hard again."
Gomez did record his first home run of the spring in the fifth inning on Saturday, but he said it wasn't due to him making great contact. With a steady wind gust blowing out to left field, what appeared to be a popup by Gomez instead carried over the fence."The home run, I was not looking for that," Gomez said. "I missed the ball and it [went] there. I said, 'OK, I'll take it.'" The race for center field is now down to just two candidates -- Gomez and Span. Gardenhire has repeatedly said that Span has been the more consistent of the two players so far this spring. But every time they see a game from Gomez like the one on Saturday, the focus seems to shift right back to the high-upside prospect. "He can make for some entertaining moments, we all know that," Gardenhire said of Gomez. One of those on Saturday included the outfielder scoring from second base on a short bloop into right field by Delmon Young in the seventh inning. As soon as the ball fell in for a hit, Gomez took off. He was so quick around the bases that what seemed to be an easy play at the plate never really materialized. "Did you see the catcher? He thought there was going to be a play and all of a sudden [Gomez] was gone," Gardenhire said. "Go-Go dove and touched the outside part and the catcher was looking around like, 'Where did he go?' He was flying." That scoring play came shortly after Gomez recorded his second stolen base of the day. It appeared like the Phillies had Gomez picked off at first base, only to watch him beat the ensuing throw to second. "To throw me out, [the pitcher] has to go to first base quick," Gomez said. "If he goes slow, he's got no chance. That's why when Gardy says, 'You go,' you go first move. And I do. I [explode on the] first move and see what happens." Stolen bases, stand-up triples, slides into home plate -- Gomez certainly has caught the attention of the Twins on the days when things are good. But it's been the inconsistency, even looking overmatched at times at the plate, which has prevented him from taking the outright lead in the race for center field. Still, that's something that the team says they expect from the 22-year-old outfielder. "He's going to have his shining moments," Gardenhire said. "But he's going to have his bad ones, too. Hopefully he'll just have more ones like today."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.