For the last eighteen days, Brandon Gomes has been rehabbing from the shoulder strain that has sidelined him since early May. Lately he has done quite well, striking out the side in his first appearance from Triple-A Durham before striking out 1 while walking around a hit in the second. But it wasn’t until just recently that Gomes knew he could have a place in the Rays’ big league plans when he returned. Matt Moore‘s injury prompted the Rays to go into a four-man rotation, leaving an extra roster spot up for grabs. For Gomes, the next three days could be the difference between him reclaiming his role in the Rays bullpen or getting lost in the shuffle as other relievers pass him by.
When Gomes went down on May 10th, the timing seemed so convienient. He had lost Joe Maddon‘s trust after collapsing against the Kansas City Royals on April 30th, pitching just one inning combined in the Rays’ previous eight games. The Rays needed a player they would actually use, so it was clear that Josh Lueke was going to come up to replace Gomes. But instead of a simple demote-and-promote, Gomes went on the disabled list with his injury, a move that conspiracy theorists could have termed as much to avoid injuring Gomes’ ego as to help a real injury recover. Then after making a successful first rehab start on June 24th, Gomes suffered a setback on June 30th, something that gave more fuel to the whispers that something other than an injury might be happening because the Rays clearly did not have a spot from Gomes even when he was ready. But correlation does not imply causation–just because Gomes happened to be injured and re-injured at convenient times for the Rays doesn’t mean that they made that happen on purprose–and Gomes remained in the Rays’ plans all along. Now, Gomes is finally set to come back as he’s required to be recalled within the next three days or put back on the DL. But the key question for Gomes will be whether his stay on the active roster will be at least until Jesse Crain joins the team or for simply for a moment before he’s optioned to Triple-A.
This season is Brandon Gomes’ third option year after 2011 and 2012. What that means is that next season, Gomes would be out of options and would either have to stay on the Rays’ active roster or be exposed to waivers. Has Gomes given the Rays enough reason to retain him on the roster for all of next season? We can’t know that for sure–and as a pitcher without an overpowering fastball, Gomes can’t take any chances. Gomes has to prove he’s healthy and continue to establish himself as a quality major league option. If not, he may be packing his bags sometime before the 2014 season begins. These next three days and the coming weeks on the big league roster that Gomes hopes he will receive will be the key determinant for his future as a Tampa Bay Ray and quite possibly his big league future altogether.