tampabay.com

Demoted Gomes makes a loud exit

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 29, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Though OF Jonny Gomes knew it was a possibility he'd be sent down Monday, he didn't take the news well.

And he didn't go quietly.

Gomes responded by spending about 15 minutes telling manager Joe Maddon, and coaches Tom Foley and Steve Henderson, specifically - and loudly - why he disagreed with the move. The conversation got so heated that even with Maddon's door closed players could hear it in the clubhouse, which was closed to the media at the time.

"If it was a debate championship I definitely won," Gomes said later.

To make room to activate 3B Akinori Iwamura, the Rays had to demote either Gomes or INF Jorge Cantu to Triple-A Durham. Though Gomes made the opening day roster and Cantu didn't, and though the Rays arguably could use another outfielder more than an infielder, Gomes was optioned out.

Gomes played in just 19 of the first 48 games, with only 49 at-bats and a .184 average. Essentially, Maddon told Gomes they wanted him to go down so he could play more often, and that it would benefit him and the team, so that he'd be ready when needed. Gomes countered that the Rays could arrange it so he could play more in the majors.

"I just thought there were at-bats for me here," Gomes said. "There's at-bats for me in Triple A as well but I thought there were at-bats for me here, so that was our disagreement."

Maddon said he had no problem with the presentation of Gomes' dissent, just the premise.

"I loved it," Maddon said. "He was just letting off some steam, which he has every right to do, and he did it in a respectful way, which I was good with. I just told him it wasn't true, that the at-bats aren't here right now."

After leaving the office, Gomes punctuated his argument by throwing the fan mail that was stacked in his box. But after calming down, he went back in to see Maddon, shook hands and left on good terms, saying he looked forward to returning.

Gomes will leave today for Durham and get right to work. "I'm the type of guy who's going to be real bitter outside the lines," he said, "but once I get back inside the lines it's game time."

HE'S BACK: The Rays were eager to get Iwamura back, and he showed why, making a spectacular defensive play early; going 2-for-3, including a key single in the ninth-inning rally; and scoring the winning run. In the nine games the Rays have won with Iwamura, he has scored the tying or winning runs seven times.

"I'm very glad to be back on the field and to be productive and to be involved in a couple of key plays," Iwamura said through interpreter Masa Koyanagi.

KNOCKDOWN THROW: RHP Edwin Jackson was laboring through another start when, while backing up home in the second, he lost LF Carl Crawford's throw in the lights and was struck in the face by the ball and knocked to the ground. From that point on, he allowed only one more run and struck out a career-high-matching nine.

"Something just clicked," said Jackson, whose face was swollen. "I feel like I just came out of a boxing ring. But we got a win so it kind of kills some of that pain."

DIFFERENT VIEW: Third-base umpire Jim Wolf didn't think there was interference on a second-inning foul popup, but Tropicana Field security did, escorting out the fan who reached over and caught the ball before Iwamura could.

ON THE OUTS: With Gomes gone, the Rays will operate with essentially 3 1/2 outfielders: Crawford, Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young will start and B.J. Upton, the starting second baseman, will be the backup.

MISCELLANY: Though Maddon still hasn't said RHP Jae Seo is permanently out of the rotation, he hasn't said that he's back in, either, saying Scott Kazmir will start Friday and Jackson "most likely" on Saturday. ... Though Cantu survived, he won't play much with Ty Wigginton starting at first against lefthanders.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.