CINCINNATI --- Newest Reds player Jonny Gomes is ready to do what it takes for his new team and make the roster out of Spring Training.
"I want to offer everything and say no to nothing," said Gomes, the free-agent outfielder who signed a Minor League contract with Cincinnati on Monday.
At the moment, a few possibilities appear to be on the table for Gomes. The Reds have a vacancy in left field, and Gomes will join Jerry Hairston Jr., Chris Dickerson, Norris Hopper and Laynce Nix as suitors for the spot.
"He's a guy we thought could compete for our bench and compete for the spot in left field, either every day or a platoon spot," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "This is a guy I've followed over his career and always liked him a lot. He had an off year last year, but if he turns it around, in our ballpark, he has a chance to hit some home runs."
Non-tendered by the Rays after a rough 2008 season where he batted .182 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in 77 games, Gomes could become quite a bargain should he have a rebound season in Cincinnati.
Still just 28 years old, Gomes can earn a base salary of $600,000 if he makes the Reds 25-man roster and another $200,000 in incentives. Cincinnati has had some good fortune with players it has taken fliers on in recent seasons. Two years ago, Josh Hamilton went from a suspended drug user to a Rule 5 pick who had a breakout rookie season. In 2008, Hairston signed a Minor League deal with the Reds worth $500,000 during Spring Training and emerged as a key contributor and was re-signed as a free agent for one year at $2 million.
"I've spoken to Jonny and some people in Tampa about him," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "The guy has some serious pop. We're going to give him an opportunity to make the club first. I explained to him that it could be a platoon situation here. We went from very few outfielders to a lot of quality outfielders in a short period of time. We need a right-handed bat."
Last season with the Rays, Gomes was squeezed out of his starting outfield spot and became a role player who yielded poor results. By August, he was sent down to Triple-A and, after a September call up, was left off of Tampa Bay's postseason roster all the way through the World Series.
"I don't think my game went down," Gomes said on Thursday afternoon. "I don't need to do anything different. It was a new regime in Tampa that made changes. It worked out great for them but I wasn't in the plans."
Gomes hasn't yet been able to match an overall solid 2005 rookie season for Tampa Bay when he batted .282 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs in 101 games. He had 20 homers and 59 RBIs in 2006, but a .216 average. He batted .244 with 17 homers in 2007.
Over his career, Gomes has a .329 on-base percentage and he's struck out almost three times more than he's walked (413 to 151). Reports out of Tampa Bay indicate that his non-fundamental swing requires him to play a lot to stay in a groove, and Gomes will admit that he can be streaky.
"I'm a high-maintenance player that has a lot of ups and downs," Gomes said. "I need to gradually grow and cut out all the peaks and valleys. When I have a manager that's patient with me, I'll have some good numbers in the end.
"When I roll into camp, I'd love to say now that my numbers will be .280 with 30 homers and 25 steals. I can't promise that, but I will respect the game and hustle. That's what you'll get every day."
In a Rays organization that featured elite outfielders like Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton, Gomes was not known for defensive prowess, but says can play all three outfield positions. He's only played the corner spots in the Majors.
"I told him he has to work hard, come to camp in great shape, work on his footwork and improve his defensive skills," Baker said.
Gomes resides in Scottsdale, Ariz., during the offseason and works out at the same athletic performance facility as Hairston and Dickerson -- two players he could end up sharing left field playing time.
While hoping to get at least 450 at-bats this season, Gomes is prepared to platoon.
"I will keep my game in shape -- my arm, my base running and my hitting -- so that when my number is called, I will be ready," Gomes said.