PORT CHARLOTTE – One thing you know quickly about new Rays rightfielder Carlos Gomez:
He really doesn't give a spit if the opposition doesn't care for him based on howhard, aggressively, passionately, cockily —or something even more descriptive — he plays.
"That's how you want it," Gomez said Tuesday. "I don't want the other team to love me. I want them to hate me. Because if they hate me, it's because I'm doing my job right.
"I'm here for my teammates, my coaches, my staff, and to give everything I have to motivate my guys to come and give all their 100 percent to the opponents. Sometimes the opponents (don't) like it because they see it like, Oh this guy never gives up, always he comes with more energy. You strike him out, he comes the next time with more intensity, more energy, more angry. It's how I learned how to play the game, and I'm going to continue to do it until I'm done.
"If I do something wrong, I get it. But I'm not going to let nobody mess with me."
Here are some more things to know:
* Rightfield will be something different for Gomez.
Of his 1,091 starts over 11 seasons with the Mets, Twins, Brewers, Astros and Rangers, 1,027 were in centerfield. Of the 20 he made in right, 14 came during his 2007 rookie season in New York. But Gomez said he's happy to slide over and doesn't see it as a big adjustment. Plus, with two-time Gold Glover Kevin Kiermaier in center and either Denard Span or Mallex Smith in left, it could be a no-fly zone. "You have three centerfielders playing the outfield," he said. "It makes your job easy when you have a type of centerfielder like Kiermaier."
* The Rays see Gomez, 32, as a fitting replacement for the traded-to-Arizona Steven Souza Jr."They're similar in a lot of things they do," manager Kevin Cash said. "They both have got some speed, they can play good defense and both have shown the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark."
Souza in 148 games hit .239 with 30 homers, 78 RBIs and an .810 OPS.
Gomez in 105 games for Texas hit .255 with 17 homers, 51 RBIs and an .802 OPS.
This year, based on ZiPS projections:
Souza in 137 games, .244-24-68-.783
Gomez in 111 games, .243-15-55-.730
Though the Rays are paying Gomez a little more than they owed Souza, $4 million plus $500,000 in games played incentives vs. $3.55 million, it's a short-term play on a one-year deal. Souza, 28, was under their control through 2020.
* Gomez in a different way might be considered more of a replacement for Logan Morrison, given his proclivity for stirring things up.
"We've had our fair share of guys on our team in the past that like to instigate things. I don't look at (the Gomez signing) that way — I look at him being a positive influence and positive energy when we go on the field," Cash said.
"You're just looking at a guy that plays the game really passionately. So when he gets a hold of one he likes to show it. The thing I like about him is anytime he hits a ground ball, he busts it down the line, when he's running (down) a ball in the gap he always gives a good throw to the cutoff man."
* Gomez, who took a big cut from the $11.5 million he made last season, is confident he can put up the big numbers the Rays expect, with the potential to bat leadoff (vs. lefties anyway) or hit in the middle of the order. "If they give me $4 million to come play rightfield, it's not that I (believe I can produce), they know that I can," Gomez said. "I'm ready. I'm excited. I'm motivated. I know this season the market (was) a little weird. But I'm in the right place, doing what I love."
Though unsigned into late February, Gomez is a 2013-14 NL All-Star whose combination of 89 homers and 122 stolen bases since the start of the 2013 season are the most in the majors.
* Gomez grew up in the Dominican Republic modeling himself after Andruw Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and Carlos Beltran. And he is eager to be a mentor to some of the young Rays players, noting he already has a relationship with top prospect Willy Adames, who is from his hometown of Santiago.
"I'm open if they ask questions," he said. "This is going to be my 12th season in the league, so I kind of know what I'm doing. I'm not shy. I'll let them know right away not to be afraid to come to me and treat me like a regular guy, because I am."
* He signed with the Rays for the opportunity to play regularly, but he also liked being in Florida, noting it's "close to home" and that his family can make the relatively short trip to see him play.
* Gomez still has some issues stemming from his miserable time with the Astros in 2015-16. Did he watch the Houston-Los Angeles World Series? "Believe it." Whom did he root for? "That's personal stuff. … It's in the past."
* And he really doesn't mind being the guy other teams love to hate.
"It's not my problem," he said. "It's not my problem that people hate me. I do what I think is right. If I make a mistake, I say, 'My bad. I'm sorry. We are human, we make mistakes.' But I'm going to continue to do what I do."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays
The 100-200 club
New Rays OF Carlos Gomez is one of seven active players with 100 homers and 200 steals. The list: