Cleveland Indians: Yan Gomes is Turning Out to be a Steal Early in the Season

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Updated: May 24, 2013

By Evan Meyer
Staff Writer

When most people think of the country of Brazil, they think of where coffee comes from, the beat of the bossanova, the girl from Ipamema Beach, Carnival in Rio De Janerio and soccer stars known by their first named like Pele, Zico and Ronaldo. Seeing a major league baseball player from that Brazil is a rare feat, however, Yan Gomes is out to change all that with the Cleveland Indians.

The 25-year old native of Sao Paolo became a household name in Northeast Ohio recently when he hit a game-winning three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Indians a walk-off win over the Seattle Mariners to complete a four game sweep.

Gomes came to the Indians from the Toronto Blue Jays this past November along with Mike Aviles for reliever Esmil Rogers. That trade is turning out to be one of the biggest steals for the Indians in many years, not only because of the surprising play of Gomes, but also the experience and versatility of Aviles.

Although born in Brazil, Gomes grew up in Miami. He was drafted by Boston in the 39th round of the June 2006 draft out of Southridge High School. He decided to go the collegiate route first at Barry University in Florida, where he was named to the Freshman All-American team before transferring to the University of Tennessee where in 2007 he was an All-Southeastern Conference selection with the Volunteers.

He re-entered the draft in 2009 and was Toronto’s 10th round pick and signed with the Blue Jays. During his first three seasons in baseball, he worked his way through the system. He began the 2012 season in AAA before getting his first call-up to the majors in May.

He played three positions with the Jays, but primarily saw time at first base. His first major league stint lasted 43 games, as he hit just .204 with four homers and 13 RBI. With Las Vegas he hit .328 with 13 homers and 59 RBI, and posted a .557 slugging percentage and an OPS rating of .938. Gomes’ numbers would have been among the leaders in the PCL if he was not called up and sent down five different times. The customs agents at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport probably knew him by name before the end of the season.

Along with being traded to the Indians in November, Gomes played for Brazil in the preliminary stages of the 2013 World Baseball Classic where his manger was Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. When Gomes came to spring training in Goodyear, he did not really have a position. So current Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. took him under his wing and he learned quickly the finer points of the position behind the plate.

With Carlos Santana away at the WBC playing for his native Dominican Republic, Gomes got invaluable playing time and was one of the biggest surprises in camp with his glove and his bat.

However, he was one of the final cuts when the team opened the season in Toronto, so Gomes began his campaign with the AAA Columbus Clippers. He was recalled to the big league club on April 9th due to a right shoulder strain to backup catcher Lou Marson, but then was sent back to the Clippers when Marson came off the DL. In his two stints in Columbus he was hitting .300 in just six games.

When Marson’s strained shoulder reappeared he was placed again on the 15-day DL April 25th, Gomes was then called up a second time and so far he has earned his spot on the roster.

Offensively, he came into the two-game series with Detroit riding a five-game hitting streak, which included tying a career best with three hits in a game as well as his first multi-homer contest. Defensively, he has shown great mobility, featuring the knowledge of using scouting reports into his calling of a game. He also has a cannon for an arm, as he has thrown out four of six potential basestealers so far. His best was in the ninth inning of a game against Oakland when he threw out speedy outfielder Yoanis Cespedes at second base.

Gomes is taking advantage his opportunity with the Indians. With his play on both sides of the baseball, it will be very tough for manager Terry Francona to take him off this roster when and if Marson’s shoulder is again healthy.

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