FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox might deploy baseball’s most unconventional leadoff hitter at times during the 2014 season.
Jonny Gomes was placed atop the Red Sox’s lineup for Friday’s spring training game against the Minnesota Twins. Manager John Farrell indicated before the contest that it’s an approach the club is considering as it looks to fill the leadoff spot vacated by Jacoby Ellsbury over the offseason.
“(Gomes) puts up a quality at-bat regardless (of versus a) lefty (or) righty and we saw that repeatedly last year, so this is a look at maybe an alignment we see during the year, too,” Farrell said.
Gomes hardly fits the mold of a traditional leadoff hitter, especially when compared to Ellsbury, who has led the American League in stolen bases three times in his seven-year career. But baserunning isn’t the Red Sox’s primary focus in getting production out of the lineup’s top spot this season, and Gomes brings a patient approach that meshes well with Boston’s overall offensive philosophy.
“The ability to get on base. The ability to hopefully be disruptive on the base paths when they do get there,” Farrell said when asked what he looks for in a leadoff hitter. “If you don’t have a player that has that type of skill set, the on-base (ability) becomes more important. And I think if you look at an overall lineup, there’s certain characteristics to each spot in the lineup, but still, the guys at the top, you want them to get to the plate one more time during a game to hopefully get on base.
“That’s our overall approach — to get on base, first and foremost — and what we do from that point on is dependent upon the guys that fill out the lineup.”
Gomes has started only two regular-season games in the leadoff spot during his 11-year career, so the Red Sox are entering uncharted waters with the 33-year-old, whose offensive game largely is built on power. Farrell’s test run speaks to the confidence and trust the club has in Gomes to put up good at-bats, though, and it isn’t the first time the Red Sox have thought outside the box based on the available personnel.