Gomes Looks Like the Odd-Man Out ….For Now

Sometimes the words speak for themselves. Earlier today both Rays Manager Joe Maddon and RP Brandon Gomes who was in the mix for that last spot on the Bullpen bench basically gave us a preview of the upcoming decision for that spot. Let’s take a gander at both comments, and you can see for yourself, Gomes just couldn’t get healthy and on his game in time to salvage a guaranteed roster spot heading into the season.

Both Maddon and Gomes seemed to be on the same wavelengths after Tuesdays contest against AL East Boston, with Maddon adding he felt Gomes who was coming off recent back surgery was “close, but not quite back to form”. Gomes himself mirrored those comments by stating “ I’m confident, I’m still very close to where I need to be.”

No matter if it is simply a question of familiar word play like potato, potatoe, tomato, tomatoe, the reality is both Maddon and Gomes know there is still some polishing and regaining strength yet until he is ready again for the MLB grind.

Gomes most likely will spend the first weeks of the 2012 season at Triple-A Durham. That in itself might be the best medicine for Gomes as he regains his game and waits for Durham Manager Charlie Montoya to call him into his office and tell him he is again on the way to Tampa Bay.

Todays performance where Gomes surrendered 4 walks, a single but at least got a pitcher’s best friend (double play) surely showed both Manager and player there is still some work to be done. And do not fret for Gomes, because you can bet Maddon and Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey will get emails, videos and maybe even a few phone calls when Gomes shows his top stuff again.

But that is the life of a young reliever in the MLB. You can be up in “The Show” one day, then suddenly be heading for the green pastures in the farm system the next. Stability when you are trying to make a reputation is scarce, and good luggage can be your best investment.

But Gomes showed in his stint with the Rays in 2011 that he has the right combination of ingredients to be successful at this level with a a slurvy breaking ball (78-83 mph), a nice sinking 2-seam fast ball (86-93 mph) and a splitter (83-85 mph) which at optimal times can make a few knees buckle at the plate. But his stuff right is not on par with the likes of the heavy hitters of the AL East, at least not at this juncture in Spring Training.

And he is not sitting on his 2011 pitching laurels where he posted a 40 relief appearances over the season for the team after appearing 20 times for Durham before he was called up the first time last season. Tied for second among MLB rookies with 29 appearances after the 2011 All-Star break while also sporting 20 K’s and a awesome .202 opponents batting average. Ironically, Gomes made his MLB debut on May 4, 2011 for Wade Davis, who possibly pushed Gomes out with his move to the Bullpen for 2012.

Interesting side note, before his call-up last April, Gomes served as Durham’s closer collecting 6 saves in April while stitching out a 1.07 ERA and perfect 7-for-7 mark in save opportunities. He even bolstered his interest by the Rays after posting 40 strikeouts and only 7 walks in his 25.1 innings of work with a cherry on top of a .187 opponent’s average.

So as you can see, Gomes has the talent, the goods and the ability to again be back up here very, very soon. I would not be surprised with the way the reliever corps can sometimes be a revolving door that as soon as the team feels he is healthy and again showing his consistent approach to the plate, Gomes will again be pulling on his # 47 jersey. I would not be surprised if Gomes is again up with the Rays this May, with a shot at keeping his spot this time for the rest of the season. 

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