The 2013 season marks the fifth in the brief history of the Gwinnett Braves Baseball Club. To honor that milestone, GwinnettBraves.com will feature some of the great players from the previous four seasons of G-Braves baseball on "5th Season Friday." The feature will run each Friday until the Season Opener on April 4.
Friday, February 15: Mauro Gomez
It may have taken him eight seasons and two Major League organizations to finally reach Triple-A, but once Mauro Gomez arrived in the International League, he immediately became one of the level's most potent hitters. The IL's Most Valuable Player as a member of the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2012, Gomez began his assault on Triple-A pitchers while with the Gwinnett Braves in 2011.
A 6-foot-2, 230 pound force at the plate, Gomez spent just two seasons in the Atlanta Braves system. He arrived as a free agent in December of 2009 after spending the previous seven seasons climbing the Texas Rangers' ladder. Although he only reached as high as Advanced-A Bakersfield, the Dominican Republic native had just logged a 28-homer, 94-RBI season with the Blaze when he arrived in the Braves organization.
Gomez spent all of 2010 with Double-A Mississippi and put together a solid all-around season, hitting .281 with a career-high 42 doubles, 16 home runs and 80 RBI. He slugged .471 for the M-Braves, earning a midseason Southern League All-Star nomination and a pair of SL Player of the Week awards.
A promotion to Gwinnett followed in 2011, his first taste of Triple-A. After seeing promotions few and far between with Texas, Gomez had finally reached the top rung of the minors at age 27. He immediately proved he belonged with the G-Braves as he hit safely in his first seven International League games. In just his fourth game on April 11 against Norfolk, he produced his third-straight two-hit effort, going 2-for-4 with a three-run homer off Tides' left-hander Mark Hendrickson.
On April 17 at Durham, Gomez lifted off for the second time, this time launching a grand slam to cap a 3-for-6, five-RBI game against the Bulls. He closed the season's first month on a 12-game hitting streak, finishing April with a white-hot .413 batting average, 11 doubles, three homers and 17 RBI. It would be only the first monster month for Mauro.
May saw him hit seven home runs and drive in 19, but his average dipped to .264. In June, Gomez hit only .222 with three clouts and 11 RBI. Still, on the strength of a .287 season average, 22 doubles, 15 home runs and 51 RBI, he was named one of four Gwinnett representatives for the Triple-A All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, UT.
Upon returning from the All-Star experience, Gomez started the second half on another tear, hitting safely in 11 of 13 games from July 14 through July 26. During that stretch, he produced the best single-game hitting performance in G-Braves history. On July 25 at Norfolk, Gomez went 4-for-5 with his first triple of the season, two home runs including a grand slam off left-hander Nick Bierbrodt and a career-high eight RBI in an 11-2 drubbing of the Tides. To date, that single-game RBI output is the most by a Triple-A Brave since Richmond's Randall Simon plated 10 RBI at Charlotte on June 27, 1998.
Surprisingly, that historic display didn't net Gomez his first International League Player of the Week award. He'd have to wait until nearly the end of the year, when he finally secured the nomination on August 29 after going 15-for-24 with seven RBI over a six-game span.
In a late-season battle with his own teammate Stefan Gartrell for the International League RBI crown, Gomez drove in at least a run in nine of his last 10 contests. He closed the year with seven hits in his final 10 at-bats in a rain-shortened three-game series against Charlotte, blasting his 24th and final clout and reaching the 90-RBI plateau. Although the final barrage lifted his batting average to a team-best .304, it wouldn't be quite enough to guide Gwinnett to the Playoffs as the G-Braves finished a game and a half out of the Wild Card spot.
Gartrell would go on to overshadow Gomez as his 94 RBI led the circuit and established him as an IL postseason All-Star. Gomez, meanwhile, would fail to win a postseason award despite ranking among league leaders in total bases (1st, 264), hits (2nd, 154), extra-base hits (2nd, 60), home runs (T-3rd, 24), runs scored (4th, 76), RBI (4th, 90), slugging percentage (4th, .522), doubles (5th, 34) and batting average (10th, .304). He'd have his postseason recognition next season, albeit with a different International League team.
With no path to the big leagues in Atlanta, Gomez signed with the Boston Red Sox organization in 2012 and spent nearly the entire season with Pawtucket, an IL rival of the G-Braves. With his third organization in the last four years he put up yet another remarkable offensive season, hitting .310 with 34 doubles, 24 home runs and 74 RBI for a PawSox club that would win the Governor's Cup. Thanks to numbers eerily similar to his totals in Gwinnett the prior year, Gomez was named the IL's Most Valuable Player on August 28.
Gomez's biggest achievement of 2012 came not in the International League, but in the Major Leagues where he finally made a debut after nine-plus years in the minors. He went hitless in two at-bats in a brief stint in May with Boston, but would notch his first career big-league hit – a double – on July 4 at Oakland. Gomez played for the Red Sox sparingly in May and July before returning permanently in late August. In 37 total games, he hit .275 with five doubles, a pair of home runs and 17 RBI.
Heading into 2013, the 28-year-old Gomez will be poised to make his first Opening Day roster with Boston. Alongside fellow prospects like Jose Iglesias, Pedro Ciriaco and Will Middlebrooks, he will hope to become a vital part of the Red Sox rebuilding process. No matter how his Major League career plays out, Gomez will be remembered by Gwinnett Braves fans for his 2011 season, one of the best offensive performances in brief team history.
The Gwinnett Braves are honoring five great former players during Season Five in 2013 with the Alumni Bobblehead Series! Collect bobbleheads of Brandon Beachy (4/6), Freddie Freeman (5/18), Jason Heyward (6/22), Kris Medlen (7/6) and Craig Kimbrel (8/10)! Want to secure your tickets to all five G-Braves Alumni Bobblehead dates? Purchase the Bobblehead 5-Pack starting at just $50 today!