Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 8/9/12
MILWAUKEE When Ron Roenicke came to Milwaukee as the Brewers manager before last season, he walked into a clubhouse with more free-swinging bats than he'd dealt with in his time as a with in Los Angeles and Anaheim. It was something, the Brewers manager said, he had to get used to. "It took a little bit," Roenicke said. "I don't say I'm used to it, though or I should say I'm used to it, but I don't agree with it all the time. I think when we're hitting well as a team, we're being aggressive on the pitches we need to be aggressive on. But I think when we go bad, we start swinging at pitches that aren't good pitches to hit and we get ourselves in trouble I think we get in a lot of trouble that way. I think that has something to do with why we're inconsistent offensively. But when we do it right and we're patient, we're good offensively. It's just, how do we stay there?" That question has shaped the offensive games of many players on the Brewers' roster but perhaps none more than center fielder Carlos Gomez. As a potential five-tool player, Gomez has long been considered a boom-or-bust prospect one with a serious proclivity for impatience. One of the youngest players in the National League when he was called up to the New York Mets as a 21-year-old, Gomez had always oozed potential. But from the get-go, his free-swinging style and lack of patience at the plate had been his downfall. In perhaps his best season as a pro -- 2008 with the Twins he batted .258 with seven home runs and 59 RBI but struck out 142 times with just 25 walks, one of the worst such ratios in baseball. Since arriving in Milwaukee in 2010, that ratio has slowly decreased, but his approach, according to Roenicke, hasn't changed much. Is this simply the player Gomez is destined to be? "His approach is see the ball and swing as hard as he can, and it seems to be working for him," Roenicke said. "He does it in BP. When the swing is flat and he's doing it that way, it works. When it's an uppercut and he's doing it that way, it doesn't work. So sometimes you see from at-bat to at-bat, you'll see a bad one and then you'll turn around and he'll hit a nice breaking ball. That's what we're going to see from him." That was the case in Wednesday's sweep-inducing win over the Reds, one of the best teams in the NL. In his first at-bat, Gomez saw just one Mat Latos pitch before flying out to center field. His next at-bat, with the Brewers trailing, 2-0, was just one pitch long as well, as the Brewers center fielder grounded out into a fielder's choice to end the third inning. But with the team still attempting to claw its way back from a two-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth, Gomez remained patient at the plate, drawing the count full after fouling off two pitches. And on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Gomez's patience paid off, as he slammed a solo shot 415 feet and behind the wall in center field. Just two innings later, with Norichika Aoki in scoring position and two outs on the board, Gomez's fourth at-bat saw two balls go past him before he got his perfect pitch, slapping a single over the outstretched arm of Wilson Valdez and into center field, scoring Aoki, and tying the game. Gomez's two final at-bats were a testament to the improvement he's made with his approach at the plate. But his first two at-bats serve as repeat evidence that inconsistencies with his patience still exist. Gomez, however, didn't see it that way when it came to his Wednesday at-bats. "You swing at strikes," Gomez said. "The first two at-bats, I put a good swing on it. You just miss it one I got on the ball too much. But they're good swings. If I drive it like I did in the third at-bat, they'd be like, Great at-bat, too.' I want to see more pitches to let the pitcher work a little bit more, but if they give me a pitch to hit, I'm going to swing early." Those are the words of a free swinger, through and through. And while Roenicke's patience with Gomez's impatience has grown thin at times this season, the Brewers manager can see the growth his speedy center fielder has undergone. Gomez, 26, now has a stranglehold on the center field position, with Nyjer Morgan struggling for much of the season. He leads the Brewers in stolen bases with 21 and is on a pace to set a career high. Not to mention the fact that Gomez is seeing the ball much better than he has during any of his major league seasons, regardless of whether he's swinging the bat more often than his teammates. He's putting up career numbers in on-base percentage (.309), slugging percentage (.475) and OPS (.784). He's already been named NL Player of the Week. And his home run total (10) is a career high with almost a third of the season remaining. The five tools that attracted scouts to Gomez in the first place are beginning to show through. But will he ever truly fulfill his sky-high potential with his risky, free-swinging approach? "We're trying to play him a little bit more to see," Roenicke said. "He's getting smarter as he's getting older. He's still 26 years old. He can still learn a lot, and with the tools, when he's doing it right, he's pretty exciting." Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter.
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