After a surprising 2013 Cleveland Indians season the organization has higher expectations for 2014 than any season dating back to 2008. The Indians and their fans will expect a playoff team and World Series contender. For the month of October, we’ll look at the how the Indians became a contender, but most importantly, How Do the Indians Reach the Next Level?
Cleveland Indians fans witnessed more production out of the teams’ bench than has been witnessed by any club in years.
The core of the bench, “The Goon Squad,” got its name by achieving clutch hits while the Indians were in dire need of offense.
Yan Gomes was at the heart of this group.
Gomes, 26, was traded to the Cleveland Indians on November 3, 2012 along with infielder Mike Aviles for relief pitcher Esmil Rogers.
Gomes will remain under club control for the next five years.
Initially, Gomes started in Triple-A Columbus but was recalled on April 9. Gomes created sparks shortly after with a two-run home run on April 13 against the White Sox, his first hit as an Indian.
Gomes is the first Brazilian-born player in MLB history to play in a game, which only added to the shine of this recently acquired player. Lou Marson had been the Indians’ back-up catcher for the last several years and retained the position later that month when he was removed from the disabled list.
Following another Marson injury, Gomes was recalled again and didn’t look back. Gomes remained the official back-up catcher; however, his responsibilities increased as the year marched on. Gomes started more games in the catcher’s position than Carlos Santana in the second half of the season, mostly due to his production at the plate but also for his promising defense.
Gomes played in 88 games for the Indians in 2013, more than double the amount played for the Blue Jays in 2012. Gomes started in 79 of his games with Cleveland.
His increased playing time proved to be a necessity due to his offensive spike. In his nearly 300 plate appearances Gomes hit .294 with 11 home runs, 51 RBI’s and 86 hits for the Indians.
Gomes also did his best to keep base runners from reaching second base as he throughout more than 20 would-be base stealers and maintained a caught-stealing percentage beyond the .400 percent benchmark.Gomes only earned a .204 batting average with Toronto to accompany 4 home runs and 13 RBI’s.
Perhaps it was manager Terry Francona’s trust in Gomes that reflected in the increased numbers and playing time. Or, it could have been blind luck that Gomes was next in line after Marson landed on the disabled list. Whatever the case, Gomes showed he’s ready for additional playing time next season.
On July 30, 2013 Gomes faced White Sox’s Andre Rienzo, who was the first Brazilian pitcher to play a game in MLB history.
Rienzo, 25, couldn’t shut down Gomes and his red-hot offense as he surrendered a hit and a walk to the Indians back-up catcher.
Following the game, Gomes made a point of showing respect to his fellow Brazilian.
“Also want to say how proud I am of Andre Rienzo!” Gomes said via his twitter account. “Excited to see Brazil baseball on the map!”
Overall, Gomes showed he’s capable of being an every-day player and may have to surrender his “Goon Squad” status as it’s for designated for bench players.
The Indians might move Gomes into the everyday catchers slot and shift Carlos Santana to first base and designated hitter. Santana could platoon with Nick Swisher at designated hitter and first base, with Swisher playing more time in right field, his regular position with the New York Yankees.
These possible shifts will likely come from the team’s desire to add offense while not sacrificing its solid defense.
Drew Stubbs could be the odd man out in this equation and could see his playing time decrease while Gomes’ is on the rise.
Despite only having one year of Cleveland experience under his belt, it’s likely that Terry Francona will trust Gomes as an everyday player and will have him start most games as the catcher.
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