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Gomez honored for four-homer effort
11/21/2006 12:54 AM ET
You're never too old to enjoy a special birthday celebration -- even if it comes a day late.

Just ask Toledo Mud Hens outfielder Alexis Gomez, who spent the day after his 28th birthday belting four homers, a feat that earned him the Triple-A Performance of the Year Award.

Gomez and the Mud Hens were off on Aug. 6, but the next night, the native Dominican went 4-for-5 with five RBIs in a 15-8 win over the Columbus Clippers, becoming the first International Leaguer to hit four homers in a game since Toledo's Bubba Trammell in 1997.

With a gentle wind blowing out at Cooper Stadium, the Mud Hens combined for seven long balls, while the Clippers added three of their own.

Gomez led off the game with a homer to right field off Tommy Phelps. After striking out in the third, he went deep again in the fourth, sixth and ninth innings for the ninth four-homer game in league history.

Outfielder Ryan Harvey was the only other player in the Minors to hit four homers in a game this year, doing it for the first time in Florida State League history for the Class A Advanced Daytona Cubs.

Gomez was riding the Toledo-Detroit shuttle for most of the season, appearing in 58 games with the Mud Hens and batting .288 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs. He had three homers on the season before his big night.

Originally signed by Kansas City in 1997, Gomez was viewed as one of the Royals' up-and-coming prospects for several years, but never lived up to his projected potential in that organization.

He finally reached the Majors in his sixth season of pro ball after hitting .295 with 14 homers and 75 RBIs for Double-A Wichita.

Claimed off waivers by Detroit prior to the 2005 season, Gomez came into 2006 with 55 at-bats in 27 Major League games.

He spent a good chunk of '06 in the big leagues, riding the bench for most of April and virtually all of June and July before returning to Toledo for the pennant stretch.

He hit his first Major League homer on June 27 and batted .272 in 62 games for the American League champion Tigers.

Gomez still has time to show he can be a productive Major Leaguer, and his belated birthday performance opened some eyes.

"He's got more power than anybody here right now, for sure," said Tigers outfielder Craig Monroe, who saw Gomez hit some tape-measure shots during batting practice.

"The sky's the limit, because he has all the ability. He's got a lot of tools. He can throw. He can run. He's a great outfielder. Sometimes you have to keep playing, keep grinding it out until opportunity comes."

Gomez got the opportunity to show his stuff during the Tigers' postseason run. He went 4-for-9 with a homer and four RBIs in the AL Championship Series against the Oakland Athletics.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.