Yan Gomes was behind the plate for the final out of the Washington Nationals’ World Series win in 2019. He managed to hold on to the ball from the final pitch, and when he spoke in a Zoom conference call with reporters back at the start of Spring Training 2.0 in July, the 33-year-old catcher said he still had it, and it was intact, in spite of pitcher Daniel Hudson’s ask that the ball be cut in half and shared since he threw the decisive pitch.
Gomes was holding strong.
“I don’t think that would be a good thing to halve it any way,” the veteran backstop said.
“But no, it’s at home.”
The ball from his 100th career home run on August 21st this past season, is all his.
“I think I can keep that one for my own,” Gomes joked.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 21, 2020
@Yan_AGomes // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/rUtzjh9zr5
Acquired in a November 2018 trade with Cleveland and re-signed to a 2-year/$10M deal after helping Washington win the World Series, Gomes put up a .284/.319/.468 line, six doubles, and four home runs in 30 games and 119 plate appearances in a 0.2 fWAR, 60-game season in 2020.
He started his second campaign in the nation’s capital 0 for 13 in his first four games, but hit in 10-straight between August 10th and 30th, going 16 for 41 (.390/.419/.683) in that stretch, and after the first four games of the season, Gomes put up a .323/.346/.531 line.
Talking about his success at the plate in mid-August, he said the starts he was getting and the work he was putting in behind the scenes were paying off.
“Obviously the consistency of playing time, [manager] Davey [Martinez] has been doing a good job with [Kurt Suzuki] and I.
“It’s mainly just trying to simplify. I’ve been working a lot with [Assistant Hitting Coach] Pat [Roessler] and [Hitting Coach] Kevin Long.
“They bust their tails in there trying to get us all right, and I credit them with everything.”
Behind the plate, Gomes didn’t throw runners out with the same efficiency as he had in his first season in D.C. (18% CS%; down from 31%), but that wasn’t all on him either. His fielding percentage (.992) was in line with previous seasons (.993 career average), though his DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) were down from +4 DRS in 2018 and +5 in his first season with the Nationals in 2019 to -3 in 2020.
He also caught a number of debuting pitchers, and he worked with two young starters and came away impressed with the pitching in the organization.
“It’s just them making the most of their opportunities,” Gomes explained. “I think they teach these guys how to be extremely confident coming up to the big leagues, which is definitely something that — it has changed — because coming up I think I was for sure super-nervous when I was first coming up.
“But these guys are coming up and being ready to play right from the get-go.”
“I think every one is showing some strides that they made in the last year or so,” he added.
“It’s exciting to see.”
Gomes, who shared catching duties with Kurt Suzuki in the past two seasons, is still under contract with the team, while Suzuki is once again a free agent, so the Nationals might be looking for a new backstop to share the workload in the nation’s capital.
Will the numbers he put up while getting consistent starts lead to the Nationals to lean on Gomes as more of a No. 1 catcher?
Will they bring back Suzuki, or bring in another catcher who can share duties fairly evenly with Gomes like the last two seasons, with the two of them starting 220 of 222 games the past two seasons?