All systems go for Gomez…for now
The early signs are good with Colorado Rockies shortstop prospect, although history says that can change in an instant and change markedly.
After his latest injury marred season, the star-crossed Gomez has recovered from the stress fracture in his lower back that limited him to 104 at-bats last year. He injured his back while being taken out on a double play in Double-A Tulsa’s second game last year and developed a stress fracture in the back during his rehab. It was July 16 before Gomez began a rehab assignment at short-season Class A Tri-City where he played 18 games.
He went to Tulsa but played just seven games before back problems flared up, ending his season Aug. 13 and causing Gomez to be scratched from the Arizona Fall League. But Gomez, who turns 23 on March 5, is playing without restrictions early in spring training.
“”He is full-go in terms of his health,” player development director Marc Gustafson said. “He’s been here for about a week now. He was with us in the Dominican mini-camp program (just before spring training). He played a bit in winter ball (in the Dominican).
“He looks great. He’s moving around well. He’s swinging the bat well. Everything is pain-free and full activity.”
Asked if Gomez’s lower back is in good enough shape for him to not just field but to dive for ground balls, Gustafson said, “Everything.”
Gomez undoubtedly would have major league service time at this point had he been able to stay healthy. Instead, he has yet to grab a toehold at Double-A, where Gustafson said Gomez will start the 2011 season.
After spending most of the 2006 season at Rookie Casper with 12 games that year at Tri-City, Gomez moved up to low Class A Asheville in 2007 for his first full professional season. There he played 124 games and accumulated 524 at-bats. He has played as many as 85 games and batted 335 times just one other time, at high Class A Modesto in 2009.
Gomez fouled a ball off his left leg in Modesto’s first game in 2008 and developed a stress fracture. He never played again that season after injuring his elbow during his rehab, necessitating Tommy John surgery in June. In 2009, Gomez missed a month at Modesto with a groin strain and played 83 games with 338 at-bats. And last year brought more time off for Gomez, who in the past three years has just 445 at-bats in 111 games.
Gomez will continue to play shortstop in the minors, although a position change is in his future with shortstopsigned through 2020. Gomez should have little trouble moving to second base or even third base, Gustafson said, when the time comes.
But for now what Gomez needs most is to simply stay healthy. He hit 11 homers in 534 at-bats in that 2007 season at Asheville and seven homers in 338 at-bats in 2009 at Modesto. The Rockies believe Gomez will show more power and develop more patience at the plate if, for starters, he can have a second season with 500 at-bats.
“That’s what he needs is plate appearances,” Gustafson said. “He needs at-bats. He needs to be on the field every day. He knows that. We’ve talked to him about that. And the focus that he has right now, he’s in a good place.
“He is a very, very talented player. You can’t try to do more than what you’re capable of and with him, it’s just a matter of playing.”