BOSTON -- Sure, there's a statistical reason why the Boston Red Sox decided to sign free-agent outfielder Jonny Gomes to a two-year deal worth $10 million, but the club is hoping he'll add much more than just numbers.
Gomes, 32, is known for his grit, determination and bully-like attitude on and off the field, and that's exactly the type of presence the Red Sox and manager John Farrell are looking for.
"He's a known team guy, with characteristics that we're making an emphasis on placing," Farrell said. "Obviously he's got a lot of talent, and he performed exceptionally well against left-handed pitching, but the fact that he has that reputation around the game, and we're looking forward to adding a greater number of [that type] in our clubhouse, with an overall emphasis that this is a team."
The Red Sox officially introduced Gomes during a conference call Saturday, and it didn't take him long to announce his presence with authority.
"Unless you lived under a rock, you know what went on with the Red Sox [in 2012]," Gomes said. "I know the core guys with the Red Sox and know the guys who have been there for a while. I know Dustin [Pedroia]. I know Jacoby [Ellsbury]. I know [Jon] Lester.
"So right away, without even signing, I was like, 'The Red Sox are going to play with the biggest chip on their shoulder.' Knowing the past of those guys and knowing how they play, I said, 'There's no possible way that would happen two straight years to the Sox Nation.' I was telling myself, 'I would love to be a part of that.' I mean, baseball in Boston didn't go anywhere and will never go anywhere, but I think it took a step back and I would be honored and I would love to bring back the fire to the Nation. Ironically enough my phone rang."
When Gomes was making his decision where he would like to play, he explained it wasn't about the location, it didn't matter which league and the money wasn't an issue. He wanted just one thing.
"It was about being wanted. At the end of the day all's I wanted was to be wanted," said Gomes. "You never want to be the last guy picked like it used to be at the playground, but the Red Sox and a few other teams popped their heads out early and they really pursued me. Me being a big historian of the game and a fan of the game, it was a pretty easy decision to call Fenway home."
The early part of Gomes' career was spent with the Tampa Bay Rays. For six seasons he was part of many intense games against the Red Sox that included a few bench-clearing brawls. Gomes was viewed as the enemy by Red Sox fans.
Even though he was on the other side, Gomes always appreciated playing against the Red Sox, especially at Fenway Park.
"It's actually a very unique situation," he said. "You can't help but to be in awe of the history of the ballpark. The further you walk in and the more you play the more the history speaks and you really can't help but to take it in.
"It's almost selfish to say it's just your team versus the Red Sox. I mean, there are so many battles involving pitchers and home runs exchanged and world champs and games that paved the way for me to get in between those lines. It's so much more than just a nine inning ballgame that I'm playing that day that I definitely don't take for granted and I'm very appreciative of."
Now he'll get to experience all that in a Red Sox uniform.
"First and foremost I'm nothing less than honored," he said. "When you have a team with a history-rich organization, the fan base, the educated fans, it's an honor. Not everyone has had the past that I've had -- I guess fortunately and unfortunately -- of bouncing around. I've played for the youngest organization in Tampa, I've played for the oldest organization in the Cincinnati Reds, I've played for the team I grew up cheering for in the Oakland A's and now I get to play for what I think, personally, is the Mecca of baseball's fan base -- you know the Chevy and American Pie of baseball and that's the baseball of the Red Sox. I'm definitely honored."
From the statistical standpoint, the right-handed hitter batted .299 (49-for-164) with 11 home runs against left-handed pitching in 2012. In fact, all 10 of his doubles came against lefties. Also, his .413 on-base percentage against southpaws ranked fifth in the AL, his .974 OPS ranked seventh and he finished 10th in the league with a .561 slugging percentage.
During his 10-year career in the majors, Gomes has a .284 lifetime average against left-handers, including 50 home runs and a .512 slugging percentage.
If the Red Sox are still able to re-sign Cody Ross, and if Ryan Kalish stays healthy and produces, Gomes could find himself as a platoon player in the outfield for Boston, a similar role he had for the A's in 2012.
"We'll probably take a look at matchups as we get into that, but to say he's strictly a platoon player I don't think we're saying that," Farrell said. "He'll have an opportunity to earn the highest number of at-bats he can. We certainly don't want to limit him in any way."
Even Gomes knows he'll have to produce on the field in order to stay in the lineup, so this early indication that he could be a role player is not an issue as he prepares for 2013.
"I'm not too concerned about that," Gomes said. "I came up and groomed from some managers who taught me that this is a results-driven industry and if the results are there you'll play. I try to get myself ready one way and that's to be ready for 162 games and that's to bat wherever the manager puts me and to play left, right or DH.
"I have one way to approach the game and that's to be ready to play every single day. I have one way to approach the offseason and that's to get myself in shape for 162. ... I'll be ready to play every single day and hopefully I can keep myself in the lineup."
Gomes can play both corner outfield positions, but he's a natural left fielder. During his 10-year career he's played a total of 327 games in left. That position at Fenway Park can be a challenge. Outfielders must contend with the Green Monster and all the intricacies that come with the landscape at Fenway.
Gomes says he can handle it.
When he was a prospect in the Tampa organization and playing at Triple-A Durham, Gomes says he imagined himself one day playing left field for the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The left field wall at the Bulls' ballpark in Durham has similarities to the Green Monster and it was then when he began to learn how to handle the complexities of the position.
"I always thought early in my career I was grooming myself to play left in Boston one day, and this was even before I was in the big leagues and obviously Manny Ramirez was there so it was so farfetched," he said. "But I really worked hard on that wall and really studied the angles and really took the challenge as something exciting and not something difficult."
Gomes was a key member of the Tampa Bay club that reached the World Series but eventually lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.
Former Rays and Red Sox outfielder Rocco Baldelli was a longtime teammate of Gomes in Tampa and knows he'll have an immediate impact in Boston both on and off the field.
"He'd fit into any clubhouse as a real positive influence," Baldelli said. "He's a tremendous guy to have in any clubhouse. Red Sox fans will also really appreciate the effort the guy puts forth and his personality. He's a resilient guy and he doesn't make excuses."
Gomes also helped the Cincinnati Reds reach the playoffs in 2010. And in 2012 he was one of the veteran leaders who helped a young A's team reach the postseason for the first time in six seasons.
Based on his experience and attitude the Red Sox reached out to Gomes early this offseason. The newest member of the Red Sox said it didn't take him long to decide Boston was where he wanted to be.
The Red Sox believe he can help revive the organization.
"He fits well on a number of fronts -- personality standpoint, ability standpoint -- into what we're trying to do," said Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.
"How does a big machine run? Well, a big machine runs with a lot of grease. You get a tall building with all kinds of fancy windows, it's the foundation that keeps that building up. I always say, 'I represent the grease that runs the machine. I represent the foundation, not the star at the top.'"
For Gomes, that starts in the clubhouse.
"I always go back to when you're 12 years old on the sandlot and you've got two captains. Who do you pick? Do you pick the best player or do you pick your best friend? Well, you always go with your best friend because you've got to ride your bike home with them and you've got to sit next to them at dinner.
"It all starts with being friends first and work from the inside and the outside becomes contagious and you go from there."
During his official introduction to Red Sox Nation, it didn't seem like just lip service to say all the right things. Gomes means it.