Jonny Gomes has been a platoon player the last two seasons, getting most of his starts against lefthanded pitchers. But the Red Sox see him as more than that.
“He’ll have the opportunity to earn the highest number of at-bats that he can,” manager John Farrell said Saturday after the Sox announced Gomes’s signing.
Gomes is a career .223 hitter against righthanders with a .732 OPS. He hit .209 against righties last season for Oakland. He had a .709 OPS against righthanders when he was a regular for the Reds in 2010.
Nonetheless, he’s being penciled in as the left fielder.
“We expect him to play a lot,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “Exactly how many at-bats it ends up being, that’s up to John and I guess up to Jonny. He’ll have the opportunity to play a lot. We see him as an important part of the team.”
The Red Sox gave Gomes a $10 million deal over two seasons. They saw him having value in the lineup — and within the framework of the team.
“We did a lot of work on him and he’s developed a really good reputation as a leader in the clubhouse, a guy that can mentor young players and be a big influence,” Cherington said.
“He plays with an edge. He’s familiar with the AL East. He’s a good fit all the way around.”
The idea of going to the Red Sox appealed to Gomes for reasons beyond the contract.
Gomes said he has been in awe of Fenway Park since coming up with Tampa Bay and considers Boston “the Mecca of baseball.”
Gomes also likes the idea of helping the team recover from a last-place finish.
“I know the core guys of the Red Sox,” he said. “I know Dustin [Pedroia], I know Jacoby [Ellsbury], I know [Jon] Lester. I know Big Papi [David Ortiz]. The Red Sox are going to play with the biggest chip on their shoulder.
“I would be honored and love to bring back the fire to the Nation. Me being a historian of the game and a fan of the game, it was a pretty easy decision to call Fenway home.”
Gomes had a unique view of his role.
“How does a big machine run?” he said. “A big machine runs with a lot of grease. You get a tall building with all kinds of fancy windows. It’s that foundation that keeps that building up. I always say I represent the grease that runs the machine, not the machine. I represent the foundation, not the star at the top.”
Is three a crowd?
When the Red Sox signed catcher David Ross Nov. 14, it started immediate speculation that Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway would be traded.
Both Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway attended the “Christmas at Fenway” event Saturday to mingle with fans. Neither seemed particularly concerned.
“That’s not my expertise,” Saltalamacchia said. “I don’t think too much into it. I’ve been in situations before where things can happen and I understand. I look at it as an opportunity for me and David to work together.”
Lavarnway said the issue hasn’t come up when he has spoken to Cherington or Farrell.
“I have no control over it all at this point,” he said. “I don’t think about it. [Ross] is a great player. He brings a very high level of character to the clubhouse. They obviously think he can help us.”
Lavarnway spent most of last season with Triple A Pawtucket. At 25, he looks ready for the majors.
“I trust Ben,” he said. “Whatever he feels I need to do, I’ll do. There’s a difference between playing well in Triple A and being ready for the majors. I feel I’m ready to make the transition.”
Farrell said there has been no discussion about moving Lavarnway or Saltalamacchia to first base.
Andrew Bailey pitched only 15⅓ innings last season after coming back from a torn thumb ligament and blew three of his nine save chances. But the righthander doesn’t question whether he should be the closer.
“They traded for me for a reason,” said Bailey. “There’s no doubt in my mind I can do what they wanted me to do. I would think I’m the only guy in that role.”
Bailey said last season wasn’t indicative of his ability.
“My performance last year, I’ll be the first to say it wasn’t who I was and wasn’t anything that I was proud of,” he said. “This year I’m going to go out and do my job and make sure I hammer down those games.”
Cherington said the Red Sox would like to bring back relievers Scott Atchison and Rich Hill, who were released Friday. They will be offered minor league contracts and invitations to spring training . . . Farrell said the Red Sox will have lefty Franklin Morales come to spring training and work as a starter. “You can always go back [to the bullpen] more readily,” Farrell said. “What he did in the rotation last year for the time he was there was very impressive.” Morales had a 4.14 ERA in nine starts . . . Outfielder Ryan Kalish, who had shoulder and neck surgery after the 2011 season, stayed in Boston after the season to work with strength coach Mike Boyle and therapist Dan Dyrek on regaining his athleticism. He said his shoulder is nearly back to normal . . . New pitching coach Juan Nieves is planning to visit as many of the pitchers as he can in January. He mentioned Daniel Bard in particular. The righthander had a disastrous season, losing command and velocity after becoming a starter. “I want to see what the progress is and what the plan is,” Nieves said . . . Jason Varitek, now a special assistant to Cherington, will be attending the winter meetings, which start Monday in Nashville . . . The Red Sox coaching staff and other team officials will meet at the team facility in Fort Myers, Fla., Friday and Saturday to start mapping out spring training.