ATLANTA — Jonny Gomes is one of the most popular players in Rays history, but he did something Friday he never did in his six seasons with Tampa Bay: He pitched.
The 34-year-old outfielder took the mound for the first time in his career, coming in for the Braves in the ninth during a 15-4 loss to the Yankees.
"It doesn't take the loss out of the loss column," Gomes said, "but hopefully there were a couple chuckles."
Armed with a fastball clocked around 70 mph, Gomes gave up two runs, including a homer to Chris Young leading off the inning. He then surrendered consecutive doubles to John Ryan Murphy and Brett Gardner. Gomes tipped his hat out of respect toward the Yankees dugout when Murphy did not try to score on Gardner's double. Gomes raised his arm in celebration after striking out pitcher Bryan Mitchell to end the inning.
"I wasn't going to light up the radar gun on purpose," he said. "I just grabbed it four-seam and threw it right down the middle. I throw batting practice in the offseason. It looked like batting practice the first couple of batters."
Gomes said he told manager Fredi Gonzalez he would be available to pitch to take some of the load off the bullpen. "Our bullpen's been grinding," he said. "I figured if I could take one inning of the load, I told him I could do it and let our guys sit back and laugh at me."
Gomes was typically animated and having a good time on the mound, at one point using a back-to-the-plate delivery reminiscent of Red Sox great Luis Tiant.
"If I ever got on the mound and it's serious, we'd be in a lot of trouble," he said.