A change of scenery can be everything for an athlete. Especially one as gifted as Carlos Gomez.
That scenery includes not just a new ballpark and jersey, but new teammates.
The Rangers are hoping their clubhouse, which has often been praised the last couple of seasons for having a near perfect balance of elder statesmen and young talented players, is an ideal fit for the embattled Gomez.
If first impressions mean anything, Gomez is going to fit right in.
He sent the second pitch he saw as a Rangers’ batter into the left-field stands for a second-inning three-run homer. It was all Cole Hamels needed as the Rangers won the opener against the Cleveland Indians 9-0 Thursday night at Globe Life Park.
After a two-out single in the first, Hamels retired the next 19 batters before a leadoff single in the eighth. He held Cleveland to two hits and no walks and struck out eight in eight innings. It’s the longest scoreless outing by a Rangers pitcher since Colby Lewis against Oakland on Sept. 11, 2015.
The Rangers added five runs in the fifth, including a three-run homer by Adrian Beltre, to increase their lead to 8-0. Rougned Odor homered in the eighth to make it 9-0. But the postgame Powerade shower belonged to Gomez, who joined the Rangers from Triple A Round Rock and made his first start Thursday in left.
The new leaf manager Jeff Banister hoped Gomez would turn once inside the Rangers clubhouse, which includes his former Mets teammate Carlos Beltran and former Brewers teammates Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress, had already begun. In fact, Banister consulted with some of his players before the team signed Gomez to a minor league deal after he was released by the Astros on Aug. 18.
For whatever reason, Gomez never clicked in Houston after being acquired in a deadline trade last season. He hit .242 with four homers in 41 games with the Astros last season and was even more out of sorts the first half of this season.. He was hitting .210 with five homers in 81 games before the Astros designated him for assignment on Aug. 10.
Gomez’s demise with Houston came a couple days after misplaying two balls in the outfield in Minnesota. But the 30-year-old is only a few years removed from consecutive All-Star appearances and a Gold Glove in 2013.
“We like to dwell on what’s fresh and what is fresh is we’ve seen some not good baseball,” Banister said. “I’m not saying this guy is going to come in and be a Gold Glover tonight. He may not even be a Gold Glover a week from now. But what we can do is try to get him back to that. I do know he has the skill set, still at 30 years old, to be that guy. That’s the chance we’re willing to take.”
And Banister will lean on his clubhouse leaders to help guide Gomez, who considers Beltran his “second dad.”
“It means a lot,” said Gomez, who hit .284 and had 73 RBIs with 24 and 23 homers in 2013 and 2014. “He’s a guy I always want by my side. He’s a guy that will always be straight with me.”
The new teammates and environment had already put a smile on Gomez’s face before the game. The idea of playing for a first-place team with respected veterans such as Beltran and Beltre was understandably appealing.
“To have the opportunity to come to a team that can be in the playoffs is a blessing,” he said. “I’m happy and excited, and I feel like it’s my first career game again. I feel like my season will start today. I’m happy to be in this clubhouse. I’ve been meeting everybody and ready to start rocking tonight.”
After Gomez hit his first homer since July 17, on a 1-0 count and on his first swing with the Rangers, the emotions almost overcame him.
“I just tried to drive the ball,” he said. “It’s the first home run of my career where I felt like I wanted to cry.”
Banister said a change of scenery, which includes those clubhouse mentors, could be exactly what Gomez needed.
“He’s hungry. He wants to prove to the baseball world that he’s still a very relevant player in this game,” Banister said. “It’s kind of a perfect storm for a guy who got a little discombobulated. I like to hear that because that means there’s so much heart left in this player. It’s the reason why we stepped out on the ledge and pursued him and brought him in.”
Indians at Rangers
7:05 tonight, FSSW