CLEVELAND: Yan Gomes isn’t likely to challenge Carlos Santana for the Indians’ starting catcher role this season.
And the Tribe recently signed backup catcher Lou Marson to a one-year, $1 million deal, so the most realistic scenario for Gomes heading into spring training is to be the Indians’ third catcher, playing at Triple-A Columbus, unless his versatility earns him a spot on the Tribe’s roster as a utility man.
But that doesn’t mean both the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Gomes and the Indians aren’t excited about the impact he might eventually have on the major league club. The Indians acquired Gomes, the first Brazilian-born player in major league history, along with utility man Mike Aviles, from the Toronto Blue Jays in November for reliever Esmil Rogers.
“He’s a great story,” Indians farm director Ross Atkins said during the Tribe’s annual Winter Development program held at Progressive Field. “Obviously, he’s the first Brazilian to make it to the major leagues. But it took just one phone call to him, ‘Hey Yan, we’re having this winter program. Would you like to be here?’ ”
Atkins said Gomes’ response was immediate, “ ‘Absolutely, what do I need to do to be more comfortable [with a new organization]? How can I help the transition?’ ”
“I like being up here, getting to know all the guys and seeing what the organization is all about,” Gomes, 25, said. “It would have been kind of hard to go right into spring training without this opportunity. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the guys here — [Indians bench coach] Sandy Alomar, Tito [Indians new manager Terry Francona] and [pitching coach] Mickey Calloway. I’m blessed to be able to get out here and get my feet wet somewhat with these guys.”
Gomes’ willingness to join a handful of the Tribe’s young prospects for a weeklong stay in Cleveland in the middle of January in an effort to get to know more about what makes the organization tick impressed the Indians’ brass.
“What stood out about Yan is his commitment to baseball,” Atkins said of Gomes, who was a 10th-round pick by the Blue Jays in the 2009 draft. “It’s evident that it’s important to him. It’s also evident that he believes he’s going to be a great player. So, the sacrifice and the commitment are going to be there. What role and what contribution [he’ll make for the big-league club] are unknown at this point. But there isn’t a ceiling, so we’re real excited to have him as an addition to the organization.”
Gomes spent a majority of last season at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit .328 with 29 doubles, 13 home runs, 44 runs scored and 59 RBI in 79 games. But he also made 44 appearances with the Blue Jays in his major-league debut. Although he batted just .204, Gomes proved his versatility by making starts at catcher, first base, third base, left field and designated hitter.
And that’s not the only way Gomes is versatile. His first language is Portuguese, but he’s fluent in English and can even “speak a little Spanish, now.”
Obviously, there aren’t any Brazilian pitchers playing in the majors to make Gomes’ native tongue a plus just yet. But that’s something that he hopes changes soon.
“That would be great if one day I can put it to use,” he said with a wide grin.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.