Gomes making most of platoon
Rays' southpaw specialist tries to make case for everyday play
BALTIMORE -- Jonny Gomes started at DH on Thursday afternoon, which put him in the game for the 19th time this season in the Rays' 28th game.
Coming into the season, the Rays planned to platoon Gomes in a right field/DH rotation that included Rocco Baldelli and Cliff Floyd. Baldelli and Floyd have since gone on the disabled list, but manager Joe Maddon has continued to platoon Gomes at right field and DH.
Eric Hinske has worked his way into the mix, becoming a viable component of the offense, and the Rays crowded the situation further by adding Nathan Haynes and Gabe Gross, who both play right field.
For Gomes, an offshoot of not being in the lineup every day has been a tendency to press.
Gomes used a situation from Tuesday night's game as an illustration. Facing a 3-0 count from O's starter Garrett Olson, Gomes swung at the fourth pitch and grounded into a double play.
"Myself, if I'm playing more frequently, I'll take that walk," Gomes said. "When you're not playing all the time, every game is like a tryout. But you're trying to fight the wrong numbers.
"Going 1-for-3 with a walk isn't going to get you in there the next day, while going 2-for-3 or 3-for-4 is going to get you in there the next day. So you just kind of come out of your approach to try and get yourself in the lineup."
Gomes knows the answer and what he needs to do to be in the lineup more frequently.
"Obviously, I'll be in there more often if I produce," Gomes said. "And situational hit, runner on third, got to get him in. That type of thing."
Gomes didn't have any problem producing on Thursday, hitting his third home run in the fourth off Orioles starter Brian Burres.
While Gomes would love to be in the lineup every day, he recognizes that with the current composition of the team, he doesn't know if he can be in the lineup 100 percent of the time.
"I don't know if it works out where I can be the everyday DH or everyday right fielder due to the rotations they have going on," Gomes said. "All I can do is be ready when my number is called."
Gomes is a team guy. But there is some frustration about not playing, particularly when based on the idea he doesn't hit right-handers well.
"I feel very confident against right-handers," Gomes said. "I actually like facing them. Left-handers, you've got the crafty left-hander, 1-0 changeup, the back-foot slider. Right-handers, you just see gas and sliders. That's what I hit the best."
Gomes' assessment is backed by some of the numbers. If one goes back to the 2005 season, Gomes had 244 at-bats against right-handers and hit .279 with 15 home runs and 43 RBIs, while hitting .288 with six homers and 11 RBIs in 104 at-bats against left-handers. He played while injured in 2006, so throw that season out, but in 2007, he hit just .218 with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs in 252 at-bats against right-handers and hit .313 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in 96 at-bats against left-handers.
"We're just doing the platoon," Maddon said. "We talked about this prior to Spring Training. It's a right-handed, left-handed thing. Historically, [Gomes has] been better against lefties than righties. He's done a better job against righties this year.
"We started out philosophically in a platoon. But there's going to be times where I like him against a certain righty -- like [Toronto's Roy] Halladay. He's had good success against Halladay. ... There's certain righties I like him against. ... Primarily guys that are down in the zone. ... He has a tendency to hit the low ball better than the high ball."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.