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May 13, 2012 at 8:09 PM

First Take: Gomez slugs his way to Boston

The Move: 1B Mauro Gomez contract purchased, OF Darnell McDonald (right oblique strain) placed on 15-day DL, OF Jacoby Ellsbury (right shoulder subluxation) moved to 60-day DL

Mauro Gomez (Kelly O'Connor)
I had wondered recently, both to myself and others here on the site, if there would come a point when the Sox would have to give the 27-year-old Gomez a shot in the majors this season. Although current Red Sox Nation darling Will Middlebrooks was our (deserving) Player of the Month here on the site, Gomez matched him nearly tit-for-tat in April, posting a .341/.384/.703 slash line to Middlebrooks' .348/.396/.708. He admittedly cooled off a bit in May (9-for-45, 2/11 BB/K, .200/.234/.422), but six of his nine hits went for extra bases. A non-story minor league free agent signing this offseason, Gomez' numbers weren't really too surprising - he has hit for great power each of the last three seasons and put up good numbers.  His primary utility could come in the Sox' upcoming interleague swing as a right-handed pinch hitter off the bench.

However, his success really didn't start until he was 24 years old in the notoriously hitter-friendly High A California League, and he has been old for his league each year since. When you see a player like Gomez, in his third organization in four seasons despite great numbers, it raises a red flag. Speaking to those who have seen Gomez this year, the consensus is that he's a mistake hitter who kills bad fastballs. Chances are, he won't see as many of the kind of pitches he's been feasting on in Triple-A at the Major League level. Although he has been hitting very well and has power, don't expect him to have the kind of instant success in the Bigs that Middlebrooks and the recently-recalled Daniel Nava have had, and don't expect him to necessarily have the same opportunities either.

That said, Gomez is a great story. He made his Major League debut this afternoon after spending ten years in the minors. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League at age 18 in 2003, a bit old for the league, and spend the next two full seasons in rookie ball before getting the bump right to High A in 2006 at age 21. He then moved back down a level to Low A Clinton where he put up ok-but-not-great numbers for a 22-year-old, then spent two years back in High A Bakersfield. In 2009, he seemed to figure things out, beginning a steady climb that saw him named to league all-star teams in three straight years. This offseason, he was given an invite to major league spring training, but was the first cut when he had problems getting a visa, and was sent down to minor league camp almost immediately. The fact that the Braves in 2010 and Sox in 2012 were willing to sign him as a minor league free agent shows that they saw some value in signing him, as most guys who, like Gomez, have not hit Double-A by the end of their minor league contracts wind up in Indy ball. Good for Gomez for persevering and at least getting a cup of coffee in the majors.

As for the moves that were made to make room for Gomez, I must say that the McDonald injury is suspicious. We do know that the Sox hitters are a bit banged up - Cody Ross is reportedly dealing with lower body injuries (what is this, the NHL?), David Ortiz has a heel issue, and the team has no backup first baseman if it wants to give Adrian Gonzalez a breather with Kevin Youkilis on the DL. With interleague play - and thus, perhaps, a Gonzalez appearance in right field or two - on the horizon, and both McDonald and Marlon Byrd filling the role of poor-hitting right-handed outfielder on the roster, McDonald may have been asked to take one for the team and hit the DL. Also, Gomez likely makes a much better pinch hitter than the light-hitting McDonald when that becomes more important in interleague games with the pitcher hitting. Of course, it's also quite possible that he's actually at least a little dinged up, and was the one chosen to get a two-week breather as the club tries to get itself healthy despite nursing nearly $70 million of baseball player on its disabled list at present.

As for Ellsbury, at this point, the 60-day DL move does not mean too much. He now will be eligible to come off the DL on June 13. Given the length of his time off, he will probably need about a week of minor league rehab anyway, which makes his new return date not seem quite so bad, so I do not think this adds much to his return time. I do wonder, though, why the Red Sox didn't make that the countermove on the 40-man roster when Daniel Nava had his contract purchased on Thursday. Instead, Justin Thomas was designated for assignment, and the left-hander was claimed by the Yankees yesterday. Had enough really changed in a couple days that Ellsbury's prognosis was pushed back? Probably not. However, given that Thomas was now the fourth left-hander on the Sox' bullpen depth chart, behind Franklin Morales, Rich Hill, and the recently resurgent Andrew Miller, that move was probably coming soon anyway.


The Move: Greenville Drive place OF Cody Koback (right shoulder sprain) and OF Lucas LeBlanc (right knee inflammation) on the 7-day DL, IF Jose Garcia (right shoulder strain) activated from 7-day DL, OF Drew Turocy added from extended spring training

A bit of roster juggling for the Drive today. Koback had been the team's primary center fielder this season, while LeBlanc, who technically went on the DL a week ago (there had been no counter-move yet) has been more or less backing up all three outfield spots. Garcia should see some time at second base, which has been manned by 23-year-old Bryan Johns for much of the year, while Turocy becomes the backup outfielder for Keury De La Cruz, Henry Ramos, and Matt Marquis until one of Koback or LeBlanc gets healthy.

(Ed.'s note: I apologize for the absence of the First Take the past few months. We here at SoxProspects.com have "real" lives as well, and frankly, other things take precedence sometimes. We should be back on these for the near future, though. Thanks for reading!)

Chris Hatfield is Executive Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield.