Gomez lands the leadoff assignment
PHOENIX -- After talking and tinkering all spring, the Brewers have settled on center fielder Carlos Gomez as their new leadoff hitter.
Manager Ron Roenicke had been mulling different options since the Brewers traded Norichika Aoki to the Royals in December. Aoki was a prototypical pick for that spot, a pesky left-handed batter who worked counts and got on base. Gomez is different, an aggressive right-handed batter with power.
He's getting the nod over shortstop Jean Segura and second basemen Rickie Weeks and Scooter Gennett.
"I'm liking what I see so far, so unless something happens in these few games after [Monday's] off-day, we're going to go with it," Roenicke said.
Gomez gave his manager more to like Saturday afternoon, when he hit a leadoff home run against Angels right-hander Joe Blanton.
"Like I said before, it doesn't matter to me. I'm ready," Gomez said. "I'm going to do my job and continue to be aggressive. It's not like I am going to be changing my approach. No, Ron told me, 'If you lead off, just [be] you. When you are good, you are aggressive. I want you to be aggressive.'"
Segura will likely bat second, giving the Brewers tremendous speed atop the lineup (Segura was second in the National League with 44 stolen bases last season, and Gomez fourth with 40 steals). Right fielder Ryan Braun, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and catcher Jonathan Lucroy will fill the 3-5 spots, leaving left fielder Khris Davis, the first baseman (Mark Reynolds or Lyle Overbay) and the second baseman (Gennett and Weeks look likely to platoon) to fill out the lineup in some order.
Gomez is coming off a career year in which he led the Brewers in doubles (27), home runs (24), extra-base hits (61), total bases (271) and slugging percentage (.506). He tied Aoki for the team lead with 80 runs scored and set career highs with a .284 batting average a .338 on-base percentage, 44 points better than his career OBP entering the season.
Roenicke confirmed that he urged Gomez not to change his approach in an attempt to "fit" the leadoff spot.
"I always feel like I should say something to him, and then you see how the player reacts to it," Roenicke said. "If he's going to go about it differently, then you may have to make a change."
Asked Saturday what he liked about Gomez in the leadoff spot, Roenicke smiled and said, "Yesterday."
The Brewers played the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., on Friday, and Gomez led off with a hard line drive that buzzed Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre before Beltre could even raise his glove.
"I think that's a really good way to start off a game," Roenicke said. "[An opposing pitcher] has got to be careful, and they're not really locked in. The first batter is usually where they have the worst command."