Gomez finds his place

It seems a change in lineup roles may have been just what the doctor ordered for highly-regarded Mets prospect Carlos Gomez. The Binghamton outfielder has seen his batting average rise nearly 40 points in the 12 games since he's been alleviated of leadoff duties.

"I think that was my problem all year," Gomez said. "I don't like to lead off."

While Gomez has all the makings of a brilliant table-setter – blinding speed, solid contact, and flashes of power – the 5 and 6 holes seem to better fit the 20-year-old free-swinger at this point in his career. He's benefited from not having to take pitches and fall behind, and being able to wait for his pitch in RBI situations.

"When I bat fifth or sixth, I have to play like one of the big guys, and I swing hard," said Gomez. "Right now I feel more power than before."

And that power has shown. With Gomez spending less time worrying about putting the ball in play, his harder swings showcase his ability to go gap-to-gap and to hit line drives. The result is a batting average over .400 in his last nine games.

"He's been going the other way a little more with two strikes, and laying off some tough pitches," said B-Mets manager Juan Samuel.

Samuel, whose lobbying for Gomez to skip high-A ball during spring training is what landed the youngster in Binghamton to begin with, knows that success will lead to more success when it comes to young hitters.

"Anytime you can get some key hits with two strikes in tight spots, the confidence boosts are tremendous," he said.

Gomez, whose first half at-bats almost entirely came as a leadoff hitter, struggled mightily for most of his first season as a B-Met thus far. His averaged teetered around the .200 mark for much of the first half, only starting to pick up a few games before the All-Star Break.

But Binghamton coaches believe Gomez may flourish in the middle of the order, without the burden of lead-off responsibilities weighing heavily on him.

"Putting him in the number six hole has taken some pressure off him," said Binghamton hitting coach John Valentin. "He's been able to relax more and let his talent come out, and you can see his average come up."

What's more encouraging is Gomez's ability to bounce back from injury – he spent some two weeks in the beginning of June rehabbing from a back injury. Gomez tweaked his back during a weekend series at Trenton at the end of April, apparently the result of sleeping funny.

He spent the time working out with the Mets camp in Florida, and returned to Binghamton even stronger than when he had left.

But Gomez's recent success begs the question whether or not the man some Mets brass consider the fastest in the organization will again find his way to the leadoff spot. While his speed seems destined there, many believe as the twenty year old fills into a mature body, Gomez could evolve into a solid run producer.

"Right now we're comfortable with him there," said Samuel. "He's doing the job, and we're going to keep him there until he shows he can be a little more patient for a leadoff guy."


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