Gomez off to electric start

By Guy Limbeck


Torii Hunter might have received the loudest cheer of any player prior to the Minnesota Twins home opener against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday, but he was the second-best center fielder in the building during the evening.

Hunter was playing in his first game since departing the Twins via free agency following the 2007 season. And the game just happened to be in Minnesota.


But Carlos Gomez appears to be on the fast track to making fans forget about Hunter. Gomez, the 22-year-old speedster from the Dominican Republic who came over in the offseason trade for Johan Santana, had an eye-popping debut for the Twins.

"This is perfect," Gomez said in his still-improving English. "I scored two runs today and we won."

He did more than score two runs. He set the tone for Minnesota’s 3-2 victory and perhaps the season. And he did little to disprove he is one of the fastest players in baseball.

"He’s just faster than anyone I’ve ever seen," Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "He can just run."

Gomez jump-started the sellout crowd of 49,596 and the Twins by leading off the bottom of the first with a double. A couple pitches later Joe Mauer singled, and the Twins had a quick lead.

"The game has to be fun and I try to be fun every game," Gomez said.

Unlike the sloppy weather outside, Gomez was just heating up. In the third inning he laid a bunt down the line at first and beat the throw with a head-first dive.

"I bunted and I saw I had to dive so I did," Gomez said.


He then easily stole second base even though the Angels pitched out. In the fifth, Gomez walked, stole second, moved to third on a grounder and scored what proved to be the winning run when Cuddyer slapped a one-out single through a drawn-in infield.

"I think you see how exciting he can be," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Said Gomez about stealing bases, "When I make up my mind, I’m going to go. I want to put pressure on other teams."

Defensively, Gomez easily ran down a ball in the right-center-field gap off the bat of Gary Matthews Jr. with two outs and the go-ahead run at second in the top of the fifth inning. And he raced back to snare Hunter’s liner on the warning track in the sixth.

Hunter played 1,233 games with the Twins. Gomez is still learning the game, but he wowed fans in his first game with Minnesota.

Before the game Gomez said he was choked up with emotions. And it had nothing to do with seeing snow for the first time in two years.

"I was just so happy it was opening day. … So happy with my life," he said.

The Twins will be just as happy if he continues this stellar play.


Guy N. Limbeck’ is a sports writer for the Post-Bulletin. He can be reached at

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