Carlos Gomez

Bust no more: Carlos Gomez has been one of the best players in baseball

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Carlos Gomez continued his breakout season yesterday by smacking two homers against the Twins, who acquired him from the Mets as a prospect in the Johan Santana deal and traded him to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy two disappointing seasons later.

Gomez was a bust in Minnesota, hitting .248 with a .645 OPS in 290 games, and he produced similarly underwhelming numbers through his first two-and-a-half years in Milwaukee. But then something clicked around the All-Star break last year.

Since the beginning of last season’s second half Gomez is hitting .300 with 24 homers, 24 doubles, 35 steals, and an .883 OPS in 123 games. Toss in his always excellent defense in center field and he’s been one of the best all-around players in baseball for nearly a full season.

Among all MLB hitters with at least 100 games since last year’s All-Star break his .539 slugging percentage ranks seventh, behind only Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, and Adrian Beltre. Trout is the only other center fielder ahead of Gomez during that time and the next-highest center fielder is Adam Jones in 26th place.

In other words, only Mike Trout’s historically amazing performance has kept Carlos Gomez from being the best center fielder in baseball for the past 10 months. And now the Brewers look awfully smart for signing the 27-year-old to a three-year, $24 million extension in March.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.