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Former Tampa Bay Ray Jonny Gomes returns to Trop with home run off catwalk

Jonny Gomes claps his hands after crossing home on his leadoff homer in the fourth as Ramon Hernandez heads to bat.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Jonny Gomes claps his hands after crossing home on his leadoff homer in the fourth as Ramon Hernandez heads to bat.

ST. PETERSBURG — Considering how colorful and combustible Reds OF Jonny Gomes was while with the Rays, it was only fitting he returned with a bang to Tropicana Field on Monday.

And considering how well-loved Gomes was by fans and teammates, it came as little surprise he was greeted with cheers.

Gomes, 30, who spent parts of six big-league seasons with the Rays (2003-08), ripped a solo homer in the fourth inning of his first game back. Gomes, who opened his pregame news conference by saying, "What a beautiful stadium," had to admire the fact that his 392-foot blast to leftfield hit the C-ring catwalk, one of the idiosyncrasies of a place he called home for so long. Had it not hit the catwalk, the homer might have landed close to a sign, written on a sheet, that read, "Welcome back Jonny!"

"It was a good opportunity to show the Reds the guidelines on the catwalk," Gomes said.

Gomes finished 1-for-3 and was hit by an Adam Russell pitch in the seventh. He said before the game that Rays fans "had always been good to me." And Reds manager Dusty Baker and Rays manager Joe Maddon appreciated the fact that the Trop crowd responded favorably to the ex-Ray.

"He deserves it," Maddon said. "He's a big part of the Devil Rays culture. When we have the Old Timers Game in about 15 years from now, I'm certain he's going to be participating. And if you hang a breaking ball, I'm sure he's going to hit it out."

Gomes got to visit pregame with some former Rays teammates, and Baker said he wanted to make sure to play him against Tampa Bay, putting him as DH.

"That was a big night for him," Baker said. "And hopefully he will have a couple more before we get out of here."

WELCOME BACK: Monday was also a homecoming for Reds RH reliever Nick Masset, a St. Petersburg native and former Pinellas Park High product who has enjoyed his place in the back end of the bullpen.

Masset said it has been great to "set up one of the best closers in the game" (RHP Francisco Cordero), a role he'd eventually love to fill. And he said there were at least 20 or so family and friends in attendance to watch him pitch a scoreless ninth.

"It's an honor; to be in the big leagues is one thing," Masset said. "But it makes it that much more of an honor to play in front of your hometown and all your family and coaches."

Quotable: 3B Evan Longoria, who had a rough game, going 0-for-3 while committing an error and baserunning mistake, said he plans to put it behind him.

"We didn't play with a whole lot of energy — I mean, I didn't," Longoria said. "Not by choice. I think a couple of the errors I made, or the baserunning mistake and the error, it's more mental than anything. You've just got to try to turn the page."

Fun effort: RHP Wade Davis said he enjoyed his adventurous trip around the bases Sunday in Houston. After delivering a pinch single in the ninth, Davis went to second on a wild pitch and third on a single before getting called out after sliding into and knocking over C Carlos Corporan. "It was probably the hardest I've had to run in a long time; it was fun, though," Davis said. "I wish I could do that for a living, but I can't."

Davis said third-base coach Tom Foley told him to run home on a ground ball and said going in with a hard slide was just his instinct. "I've always been pretty aggressive," he said. "I've never really backed off."

MISCELLANY: LHP J.P. Howell and Russell will be "striking out hunger" at Sweetbay Supermarket (7580 49th St. N, Pinellas Park) from noon to 1 p.m., signing autographs in exchange for a donation of a package of Hannaford brand fruit cups. … DH Johnny Damon will be at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg from 1 to 2:30 for "Uncork the Cause," announcing the release of his 2007 red wine. Proceeds from the sale will support families of the three fallen St. Petersburg police officers (www.uncorkforacause.com).

Former Tampa Bay Ray Jonny Gomes returns to Trop with home run off catwalk 06/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 1:13am]

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