Alomar: Gomes is ‘superstar in the making’
It can be a little bit of a trick question when considering if Yan Gomes exceeded expectations this past season, especially based on how he did the second half of the 2013 season.
However, when you factor in that this was Gomes first full season as the Indians’ starting catcher and that the organization signed him to an extension on Opening Day it is a good starting point, especially when that question was posed to Sandy Alomar.
Said Alomar when asked if in his opinion Gomes exceeded expectations: "I believe so. When you consider he is still learning the craft, the way he has improved every year and it has escalated. We are going to see a superstar in the making. He’s already one of the best."
Gomes did get off to a rough start with nine errors in the first 28 games along with a .255 average, The errors were the most surprising thing considering that Gomes made just three in 2013. Alomar attributed the early struggles to a variety of reasons with the biggest one being that Gomes was using too rigid of a glove.
"When you have a rigid glove it changes your mechanics over the season. Instead of receiving the ball you are trying to catch it so the ball sticks to the mitt," Alomar said. "My opinion is after he switched gloves it was a remarkable change. He let the ball get to him and his footwork was perfect. It all brings you back to normal mechanics when you receive the ball."
Gomes had 14 errors on the season but his fielding improved, especially after the All-Star Break when he made just three errors. He also ended up being a finalist for the AL Gold Glove at catcher that eventually went to Kansas City’s Salvador Perez.
Gomes’ biggest impact was in nailing opposing baserunners. Of the nine catchers in the American League that started over 100 games, Gomes 32 percent caught stealing rate was second best and his 31 baserunners caught was second overall in the AL. His 3.68 catchers ERA was also third.
Terry Francona often said that Gomes offense was just an added benefit, but Gomes was much more. He was second in the AL among catchers in RBI (74) and third in homers with 21. Gomes was also second among catchers in the Majors in OPS at .785. Batting .278 on the season, Gomes also figures to be among the contenders for the Silver Slugger Award at catcher, which will be announced on Thursday.
Gomes’ 121 starts at catcher were third in the American League and the most for the Indians since Victor Martinez also started 121 in 2007.
"Yan is a confident man. He had never done it (caught) on an everyday basis and no one knows if you are ready. But he performed well and is one of the best catchers in the league already because he stays within himself," Alomar said. "He’s a great catcher and blocker. Balls rarely get past him. The offensive part comes afterward and he did a good job at that."
Besides Gomes, Alomar feels great about the overall state of the Indians catchers. Roberto Perez was called up just before the All-Star break and performed well during the second half.
While Perez is more of a natural catcher, the one thing that held him back was his offense. But Perez was called up after batting .305 in Triple-A Columbus and batted .271 in 29 games with the Indians.
"I think we have one of the best 1-2 combos in the big leagues. Roberto’s defense is remarkable. He has soft hands and makes every pitch look like a strike," Alomar said. "We have a perfect guy backing up Gomer and it is going to be a good scenario for our organization going forward."
BUSY OFFSEASON: After not having any interviews last offseason, Alomar was a finalist for the managerial openings in Arizona and Minnesota.
Alomar has interviewed with six teams since 2010, including the Indians after Manny Acta was fired in 2012. While some might be discouraged, the two interviews last month gave him confidence.
"Just the fact that they were calling was good," he said. "I’ve got to keep knocking on the door and I just do what I can. I feel like I’m ready to do the job but have to continue and have faith until someone says you are the guy. There have been guys waiting for a long time and that’s just part of the grinding."
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