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Ben Cherington on Jonny Gomes: ‘I see him playing a lot of left field’

Posted By Alex Speier On December 1, 2012 @ 12:28 pm In General | 32 Comments

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Jonny Gomes officially became a Red Sox on Saturday. (AP)

The Red Sox made official their signing of outfielder Jonny Gomes on Saturday, bringing the 32-year-old on board for a two-year, $10 million deal. Gomes hit .262 with a .377 OBP, .491 slugging mark, .868 OPS and 18 homers in 99 games for Oakland in 2012, helping the A’s to emerge as the surprise winners of the AL West.

GM Ben Cherington said that Gomes represents a good fit for the team, the lineup, Fenway Park and the Red Sox clubhouse, all factors that weighed into the decision to bring him on board at a relatively early phase of the offseason.

“I see him playing a lot of left field,” said Cherington. “We think his bat fits well in the lineup in the ballpark. Did a lot of work on him, and he’s developed a really good reputation as a leader in the clubhouse, a guy that can mentor young players and make an influence. He plays with an edge, he’s used to the AL East, so just felt like a good fit, all the way around.”

Gomes has meaningful splits against righties and lefties. He thrashed southpaws to the tune of a .299/.413/.561/.974 mark in 2012, with more modest totals (.209/.324/.391/.715) against righties. Still, Cherington said that it hadn’t yet been determined if Gomes would be in a strict platoon with the Sox.

“We expect him to play a lot. Exactly how many at-bats it ends up being that’s up to [manager John Farrell] and I guess up to Jonny to some degree, how he performs. He’ll have an opportunity to play a lot, we see him as an important part of the team,” said Cherington. “He’s had opportunities where he has handled right-handers pretty well. We think the ballpark is a good fit for him, he’s a grinder, he’s an intense competitor. So we’ll see you know. I think there’s, match-ups aren’t always about left to right. Sometimes there’s certain pitchers that a guy’s a good fit with and others who they aren’t. So those things are up to John and the staff to figure out. Jonny’s a guy who we just felt fits well on a number of fronts, from a personality standpoint from an ability standpoint into what we’re trying to do.”

As for Gomes’ reputation as a leader, Cherington suggested that the Sox are focused on adding the right clubhouse mix of players to the roster. He said that the Sox have always placed a premium on makeup and clubhouse fit, but that with the Sox coming off a pair of seasons that have sharpened the knives in terms of conversation about the team, it could be particularly important to have the right sort of player for Boston in 2013.

“It’s always been a focus,” Cherington said of the premium placed on makeup. “I think we know that coming off a 93 loss season, we’ve got a lot to improve. More than anything we need talent, talent wins games more than anything. But we know that in a place like this when we’re trying to build something coming off a very disappointing year, there’s going to be scrutiny, there’s going to be attention, I think having guys that have the ability to handle that and are tough enough to get through that and still perform and be who they are, there’s some level of importance to that. And certainly John Farrell and the coaching staff have something to do with that. The guys and the players in the clubhouse, the players in the clubhouse have a bigger impact on the clubhouse than anyone else.”

In many ways, Gomes represents a number of the same traits that starting outfielder Cody Ross brought to the Sox in 2012. That being the case, Cherington was asked whether Gomes’ signing will impact the team’s interest in retaining Ross.

The Sox are still in the market for at least one outfielder. That being the case, Cherington said that the Gomes signing wouldn’t necessarily change the team’s talks with Ross (even though he did acknowledge that the team, in a vacuum, would like to achieve lineup balance), and said that the Sox remain engaged with a player who fit their ballpark and did enormous damage to left-hander’s in 2012.

“[Dialogue with Ross has] been consistent. We’ve talked to him, we’ve talked to his agent several times. We’re keeping the door open to dialogue,” said Cherington. “I’m sure he’s talking to other teams as well. We’ll keep talking and see where things end up.

“We talked a fair amount with him before we came to an agreement with Gomes, and we’re still talking,” he added. “I don’t want to comment on the exact nature of the talks. We’re trying to put the best team together, one that works, a roster that works. We’re still talking to Cody along with several other guys.”


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