CLEVELAND -- Edwin Encarnacion will have some business to attend to when he arrives to Spring Training with the Indians. He has to sort out how catcher Yan Gomes will be compensated for giving up his uniform number for Cleveland's marquee offseason addition.There were plenty of texts being exchanged among
CLEVELAND -- Edwin Encarnacion will have some business to attend to when he arrives to Spring Training with the Indians. He has to sort out how catcher Yan Gomes will be compensated for giving up his uniform number for Cleveland's marquee offseason addition.
There were plenty of texts being exchanged among Tribe players when news broke that Encarnacion agreed to a three-year deal with the Indians. Gomes, who played with the first baseman in Toronto, sent one of his messages Encarnacion's way. The catcher knew that Encarnacion might be interested in keeping No. 10 with Cleveland.
"I'm like, 'Hey, you need my number?'" Gomes said. "I'm not going to disclose anything that went through it, but I can tell you nothing has been exchanged -- yet. I think we still have to talk about it. Whatever it is, you're trying to keep a guy like that happy. If he wants No. 10, he can have it as many times as he wants."
There is some symbolism in Gomes' willingness to part with his number, though.
Gomes endured the most trying personal season of his career in 2016. There were offensive struggles, health woes and setbacks on top of setbacks. Agreeing to switch to No. 7 in order to accommodate Encarnacion's arrival was an easy decision for the catcher. By removing No. 10 from his uniform, Gomes has taken a physical step in turning the page on last year.
"That's a way to look at it," Gomes said. "I overdid it with No. 10. I hope that that doesn't carry on to him. I think he's done pretty well with No. 10 in Toronto."
Cleveland has invested a lot in Gomes, who is signed through 2019 with team options for the '20 and '21 seasons. Last year, though, he never took off at the plate, and then he sustained injuries that shelved him for most of the second half. There was a separated right shoulder on July 17 and a fractured right wrist on Sept. 14. The back of Gomes' baseball card will forever show a .167 batting average and a .527 OPS in 74 games. That showing is a far cry from the numbers Gomes posted as a American League Silver Slugger Award winner just two seasons earlier.
The positives came in bursts for Gomes over Cleveland's final month. On Oct. 2, the catcher defied the odds and worked himself back into the Indians' starting lineup for the final game of the regular season. In his first plate appearance in more than two months, Gomes launched a home run, helping the Tribe to a 3-2 win in Kansas City that secured home-field advantage for the AL Division Series against the Red Sox.
"Last year was difficult for a number of reasons," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Gomes. "Not much went right. I do think -- and I know it was like a 15-second [thing] -- but that home run he hit in Kansas City, it got us home-field, and that reception he got in the dugout, I bet you, made all that work worth it."
While Roberto Perez did the bulk of the catching in the postseason -- making a name for himself in the process -- Gomes was able to appear in four World Series games. That included entering late in Game 3 at Wrigley Field, where he helped the Tribe's pitchers put the finishing touches on a 1-0 win over the Cubs. After Javier Baez struck out for the final out, Gomes got to shake closer Cody Allen's hand on the field.
"That's something that nobody can take away from me," Gomes said. "Even though it didn't go as planned, I still got to play in a World Series game."
That can also give Gomes some fuel for the season ahead.
Gomes said he is "feeling 100 percent and ready to go," and both he and the Indians know they have a potentially solid combination behind the plate between him and Perez. Francona said that Gomes will remain the starting catcher, but he noted that Perez's skills make it possible to work in extra days off or consider scenarios where both players are in the lineup (with one as the designated hitter).
Gomes is looking forward to getting started -- and doing so with a new number on his back.
"I'm putting that all behind me," Gomes said. "It was a year to forget in one way, but a year to remember in another. I don't want to do all the negative parts of last year. We still made it to the World Series, were the second-best team in the league. I think that's something to be really proud of. I was part of that. I'm just excited as a team to get back out there."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.