Carlos Gomez, the key player the Twins acquired in an offseason trade that sent two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana to the Mets, is making his presence felt in a pennant race as a rookie center fielder. Speed is his biggest weapon. He leads the AL in infield hits and has already set a Twins record for most bunt hits in a season. The 22-year-old Gomez recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Can you describe your adjustment to Minnesota?
Gomez: It feels great. When I heard of the trade, I had it in my mind that I would get an opportunity to play. That's fun. I've come to a young team where everyone likes to play, and everyone likes to have fun. We play hard, and we have a good team.
MLBPLAYERS.com: And what about your adjustment to the American League?
Gomez: It's a little different from the National League. The game here is quick. It's my first year here though, so by the time we get to next year, I will not only have more experience, but I'll have a better idea what to expect.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How do you describe your season -- your first full Major League season -- so far?
Gomez: The season is long, but I feel better now than when the season started. I'm the type of player who feels the longer it goes, the better it goes for me, because I put in a lot of work every day. It also helps when you have the teammates I have here.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You have nearly 30 stolen bases. As you have come here, and with a new fan base to impress, is that a number you are proud of?
Gomez: Speed is an ability that people can see. A goal of mine is to steal more bases, and I know I can do that. This is my first year. Now we as a team are in a position to make the playoffs, so sometimes you have to wait on your chances to steal. We have a great lineup with guys like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Sometimes pitchers make mistakes, and they hit the ball, and we score. We don't have to wait for a stolen base. The last two months, my hitting has been a little cold, but I've had some good signs recently.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You seem to play with a lot of confidence. Have you always enjoyed that great self-belief?
Gomez: Sure. It's a game, and to do what you want to do here, you have to believe in your ability. Sometimes you question things when it isn't going good. You have a lot on your mind, but that's normal. If you have a strong mind, and you work hard, and you keep working, you will be fine.
MLBPLAYERS.com: After falling short last year with the Mets, what would it mean to you this year to make the playoffs?
Gomez: When you play in New York, it seems like every game is a playoff game. If you don't win every game, people are not happy. Coming here, it's easier to play. Nobody thought we were going to be in the playoff hunt, and we are in a situation that everyone wants to be in. We need to do the little things to win games and to get to October.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How much do you follow the Mets now?
Gomez: I follow them closely. I grew up in that organization. I see what my old teammates do. I have some conversations with Jose Reyes and those guys over the course of the season. I still have good relationships with many of those guys.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How much do you follow Johan Santana's success in New York?
Gomez: Everybody knows Johan. I want him to do well. I got traded for him, but it has worked out good for both teams. The Twins got me and a couple of guys. I have played well, and it has worked out for this team. New York got Johan, and Johan has done a lot for that team. They are winning and are trying to make the playoffs. Every day I come here, and I say I want to be in the World Series. I want to be in the playoffs. A series featuring the Twins and the Mets would be great.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How have you adjusted to playing defense in the Metrodome?
Gomez: It's hard sometimes. When you play a lot of games outside and then go indoors, you can lose the ball. As the season has gone along, I have a better feel for where the ball is going. When the ball goes in the air, I know what I have to do. It does take focus to play the outfield in Minnesota.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What do you like to do in the Twin Cities area for fun?
Gomez: I like to shop. My wife is there, and we do a lot of shopping, and we watch a lot of movies. She's pregnant, and we spend a lot of time at home when we have an off day. I don't think too much about going out. For my career, I'm about staying focused and doing my job.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.