MANCHESTER, N.H. — Baseball players can be a superstitious bunch. When things are going well, players often avoid acknowledging their success, thinking that doing so might be bad luck or that they might start overthinking things.
But after everything he’s been through this year, Red Sox pitching prospect Rio Gomez isn’t about to shy away from the months-long scoreless streak that has defined the greatest stretch of his professional baseball career.
“A lot of people always say, oh, you don’t talk about the streak, you’ve got to be superstitious about all these things,” the Portland Sea Dogs reliever said before a recent game against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. “But the way I look at it in baseball, the season and the careers are so short and the window is so short, so why wouldn’t you enjoy it while you can?
“Because when things are going bad, you’re not afraid to talk about it. When things are going really bad, you’re not going to be afraid to talk about it, you’re going to want to talk about it,” Gomez continued. “It’s going to be too easy to live in that moment so why wouldn’t you want to live in that moment when things are going good?”
That perspective came hard earned for Gomez, who has endured one of the toughest years of his life both on and off the diamond. The 26-year-old lefty unexpectedly lost his father, longtime ESPN broadcaster Pedro Gomez, back in February and then got off to a rocky start once the season began this spring.
After having never previously pitched above Single-A since being drafted out of the University of Arizona in 2017, Gomez was called up to Double-A Portland in mid-May and initially struggled. He allowed runs in five of his first six appearances and by June 13 had an ERA of 12.54. Opponents were hitting .409 with a 1.207 OPS against him, and unlike in past seasons he no longer had his father to turn to for advice and support.
Then, on Father’s Day of all days, things began to turn around.
Gomez pitched a scoreless seventh inning with two strikeouts against Binghamton on June 20 and followed that up with two scoreless innings against Somerset a few days later. On June 25, he posted another strong outing against Somerset, allowing one run over two innings with five strikeouts, and that would be the last time he allowed a run for two and a half months.
Following his June 25, outing Gomez was placed on the “development list,” which functions similar to the injured list only for healthy minor league players to work on their skills outside of live game action. Since his activation on July 6, Gomez has been automatic, and entering Tuesday night’s game against Hartford he had strung together 15 consecutive scoreless appearances.
Over that stretch, Gomez threw 23 scoreless innings, held opponents to a .167 average and .440 OPS and struck out 26 while only walking six. Entering Portland’s final week, his ERA for the year at Double-A is now all the way down to 3.38.
Having endured so much recent hardship, and with no guarantees about what his baseball future might hold, Gomez has been sure to cherish every moment while keeping focused on the day to day grind.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Gomez said. “I’ve been taking it day by day and see how these last few weeks go.”
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