Gomez: Rangers suit me best

Out­fielder resurged with Texas af­ter re­lease by Astros.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Stephen Hawkins

Car­los Gomez would play any posi- tion for the Texas Rangers. The out­fielder just wouldn’t want to play for any other team.

“It’s no ques­tion, I’m on the right team,” Gomez said. “I de­cided to come back this year again be­cause I think that was the best, the smart, move for me. It’s the best choice.”

Af­ter a resur­gent six weeks late last sea­son, fill­ing a need for the Rangers and re­gain­ing his con­fi­dence at the plate, Gomez re­turned with an $11.5 mil­lion con­tract early in the off­sea­son.

Be­fore that, things were so mis­er­able that Gomez was re­leased by the Hous­ton Astros in late Au­gust af­ter hit­ting .210 with five homers and 29 RBIs in 85 games. The Rangers, need­ing help in the out­field af­ter Shin-Shoo Choo broke his left arm, signed Gomez to a deal two days later, and he was back in the ma­jors within a week.

While work­ing on swing changes with Rangers coaches, he hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games.

“Un­be­liev­able, what I think is a rough sea­son, and then fin­ish like that,” said Gomez, now 31 and go­ing into his 11th big league sea­son. “I’m more ex­cited to come back and play a full year with the Rangers.”

While a small sam­ple, .284 was also his ex­act bat­ting av­er­age in both 2013 and 2014 with the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers when he was twice an All-Star. He hit .361 with three homers and nine RBIs in 14 spring train­ing games in Ari­zona, fin­ish- ing with two hits as the de­sig- nated hit­ter Wed­nes­day af­ter miss­ing a week with a jammed shoul­der.

Gomez played mostly left field for the clos­ing stretch last sea­son as the Rangers won the AL West ti­tle, but this sea­son will be the pri­mary cen­ter fielder af­ter All­Star Ian Des­mond left in free agency. He won a Gold Glove in 2013 while play­ing cen­ter for the Brew­ers.

Asked how much he looked for­ward to be­ing back in cen- ter field, Gomez re­sponded, “It’s not about me any­more.” He said he’s flex­i­ble to what- ever man­ager Jeff Banis­ter needs him to do in the field or at the plate.

“When you start get­ting older and more vet­eran, you just want to be in the right place where you can en­joy it ev­ery sin­gle time,” Gomez said. “This is a per­fect team: You can get a cham­pi­onship, and you can en­joy ev­ery sin­gle game, ev­ery sin­gle mo­ment.”

Gomez also wanted to keep work­ing with hit­ting coach An­thony Iapoce and as­sis­tant hit­ting coach Justin Mashore af­ter all they did to help him. Mashore even went to visit Gomez at his home in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic for a week dur­ing the win­ter to keep work­ing on the ad­just- ments.

“I learned some­thing that I never had in the past: be­ing able to work with some coach there to take my abil­ity to an­other level,” Gomez said.

While Gomez is still swing- ing hard, don’t an­tic­i­pate see­ing him fall down or have his helmet fly off his head when he does now. Even though he has a hard time ex­plain­ing the changes, he said the big- gest thing is be­ing ready and in the right po­si­tion to make his best swing.

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