When the Red Sox expressed an interest in signing first baseman/designated hitter Mauro Gomez as a minor league free agent in February, Gomez’s friends back in the Dominican Republic questioned the limited opportunities for career advancement within the organization. The Sox had Adrian Gonzalez entrenched at first base and David Ortiz at designated hitter.
“When I came to Boston, my friends back in the Dominican told me, ‘Why do you want to go to Boston? You’ll never have a chance there with Gonzalez and Papi,’ ” said Gomez, 27, who hit .304 with 24 home runs and 90 RBIs with the Triple A Gwinnett Braves last season. “But I told them I’m going to work hard and fight 100 percent for an opportunity and try to do my best, and whatever happens, happens.’’
Never in his wildest dreams, though, did Gomez imagine the opportunity that now exists for him with Gonzalez being traded to the Dodgers and Ortiz going on the disabled list.
“When they traded Gonzalez, it was a good opportunity for me when I got called up to show what I could do in the major league,’’ Gomez said. “Hopefully I can open some eyes among the fans in Boston and take advantage of the opportunity I have the rest of this season.
Gomez seems to be in the right place at the right time, especially after being named the International League’s Most Valuable Player for 2012, the seventh player in PawSox history to earn such recognition.
Gomez, who hit .310 in 100 games for Pawtucket, joins Jim Rice (1974), Ted Cox (1977), Gary Allenson (1978), Dave Stapleton (1979), Pat Dodson (1986), and Jeff Bailey (2008).
“I’m very happy,’’ Gomez said from Los Angeles, where he traveled with the Red Sox on their West Coast swing. “I’m so proud to have won an award like the MVP because I’ve always worked hard to give 100 percent in the games and to help my team win in any way I can, so I’m very happy about this.”
At Pawtucket, Gomez played 52 games at first base, 8 at third, and 40 at DH; he hit 34 doubles, 24 homers, and had 74 RBIs. He was fourth in the IL in batting, tied for second in homers, and fourth in RBIs despite being called up to Boston four times.
“He’s been an excellent player on and off the field,’’ said Ben Crockett, Red Sox director of player development. “He’s been prepared for every situation.
“In spring training, he was ready to take advantage of opportunities, and certainly in Pawtucket, and he went up, and after coming back down, he didn’t skip a beat. He kept playing hard and he’s got a real good and consistent approach to what he’s doing, probably beyond his experience level.”
“I always was positive and tried to compete and take advantage of my opportunities,’’ said Gomez. “I still don’t feel that good about my swing, but that’s why I always come to the park early to do some hitting in the cage.”
Upside down below
While the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers rid the Sox of almost a quarter-billion dollars in salary, it also seemed to energize the organization, particularly the minor league system.
The Sox acquired first baseman James Loney and minor league righthanded pitcher Allen Webster, 20, and infielder Ivan De Jesus, 25, along with two players to be named. Webster was assigned to Double A Portland and De Jesus to Pawtucket.
“Any time you have a trade like this go down, it probably gets everybody’s attention,’’ Crockett said. “From a minor league player’s perspective, it shows some support of the minor league side of things, and there are certainly some opportunities at those specific positions or elsewhere.”
Crockett was asked if the trade signaled a shift in the way the club looked to replenish its ranks from within by developing more home-grown talent, such as outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and infielder Xander Bogaerts, both of whom climbed to Portland this season.
“Tough question,’’ Crockett replied. “From a development side of things, we’ve got a few players back there who are interesting and we’re excited about and trying to finish their development. We’ve got some pretty good upside with the two guys [Webster and De Jesus] we’ve got back there.’’
Outfielders Jeremy Hazelbaker and Bryce Brentz were promoted from Portland to Pawtucket this week. Hazelbaker hit .273 with 19 homers, 64 RBIs, and 33 stolen bases in 114 games with the Sea Dogs. “He’s put together a really good season,’’ Crockett said. “Jeremy’s got power, he’s got speed, and he’s got a really athletic body. He’s someone who’s a real exciting prospect.’’ Brentz was promoted after a torrid August (.393, 24 RBIs) that raised his average to .296 . . . Brentz will represent the Red Sox in the Arizona Fall League along with pitchers Ryan Pressley, Brock Huntzinger, Chris Martin, and Pete Ruiz.Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.