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Thursday, January 23, 2014
Gomes on Yankees: 'We still got the belt'

By Gordon Edes

BOSTON -- So, what does Boston Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes make of the New York Yankees' spending spree this winter, which has netted them a new center fielder (Jacoby Ellsbury), a new catcher (Brian McCann), a new corner outfielder/DH (Carlos Beltran) and a new Japanese pitching star (Masahiro Tanaka)?

“People can go out and sign whoever they want right now,’’ Gomes said. “Boxing rules, we still have the belt. Whoever else, reloads. Kind of flattering a little bit, you know, that [a division] rival has to reload as much as they did. We lost some core players; at the same time, this organization is extremely deep. The majority of our core group of guys is back. We’re champs. We have to uphold that title. I don’t think the mindset is going to change.’’

The Yankees’ spending has approached nearly $500 million for those four players, with Tanaka the latest addition, agreeing to a seven-year, $155 million deal, on top of the $20 million the Yankees paid the Rakuten Eagles, his Japanese team, as a posting fee.

“That’s flattering, right?’’ Gomes said. “I’ll tell you what, [Yankees GM Brian] Cashman and [manager Joe] Girardi are about as professional as they get. They run a pretty tight camp. But it’s kind of interesting, with $500 million and still some questions, you know. You got McCann, he hasn’t been in the American League before. The pitcher [Tanaka] who hasn’t pitched a game over here. They’ve got some guys playing different positions.

“But they’ve got some true professionals over there. They’ve got some guys coming back. CC [Sabathia]’s lost some weight, hes going to get back to ace caliber. But it’s about winning the summer. It’s not about winning the winter. That’s what we’re going to try and do again.’’

When someone asked how the signings would impact the rivalry, Gomes cracked: “I thought you were talking about the Cardinals. Those were our last games.’’

The Red Sox, by contrast, have added few pieces this winter, their latest acquisition outfielder Grady Sizemore, a one-time star whose career was derailed by seven surgeries since 2009.

“I know one thing from being in camp last year how deep this organization is,’’ Gomes said. “We’ve got some power arms down there. We got some athletic kids in the infield and outfield, a couple catchers down there. We’re in a position where we have a lot of depth, which when push comes to shove, depth equals trade chips.

“I’m very happy with where we are right now. I don’t think there was anything I was looking to happen that hasn’t happened yet, so I’m just happy I got a Sox uni, grab my [World Series] ring Opening Day and try that on.’’

While the Sox employed a platoon in left field of Gomes and Daniel Nava for much of the season, that was not the case in the postseason, when Gomes started four of the last five games in the ALCS and five of the six games in the World Series. "We're at a time of year where I mentioned the environment is different, and that's not to say that (Nava) doesn't perform in this environment," Farrell said at the time. "It's just, we have a different feel and a different personality on the field when Jonny is in the lineup. Call that a hunch. Call it whatever you might. That's what it boils down to.’’

Gomes batted a combined .152 (5 for 33) in those series, but hit a huge three-run home run in Game 4 of the World Series, breaking a 1-all tie and propelling the Sox to a 4-2 win.

During the regular season, Gomes made 65 starts in left field, posting a .247/.344/.406/.770 slash line and 13 home runs in 312 at-bats. Sox left-fielders combined for a league-best .790 OPS last season, with 56 extra-base hits.

“My career’s been a lot of playing time, not a lot of playing time,’’ he said. “I can’t prepare for playing time but I can prepare to be healthy for 162. The icing on the cake is to prepare and help for 162-plus.

“I made it all year without getting hurt. I think I kind of threw out an interesting aspect of playing defense against that Wall ... To hit behind Papi in the World Series, that’s got to say something about what the organization thinks about you a little bit. At the same time, I work out with Daniel Nava every single day. Split time or not, I got to be ready when No. 5 is called, and that’s what I’ll do.

“If you were to look at my numbers at the end of the year, that doesn’t justify even a tenth of the fingerprint I put on the season ... My stats aren’t my thumbprint on the season.’’