Notes: Gomes gets leadoff spot

Notes: Gomes gets leadoff spot

ARLINGTON -- Joe Maddon has not been accused of being one of those managers who seeks to reinvent the wheel. But he did raise eyebrows with his choice of a leadoff hitter Sunday.

Out was the speedy, slightly built third baseman Akinori Iwamura, who was given the night off. In was the decidedly slower, heavier and more powerful outfielder Jonny Gomes.

"I was fine with it," Gomes said, "but there was a little chuckle."

"I thought it would be an interesting move," Maddon said.

While Gomes won't fit anyone's preconceived notion of a prototypical leadoff man, Maddon's decision was not made without logic or precedent.

The manager was drawn to Gomes' .388 on-base percentage against left-handers (second on the team only to Brendan Harris' .411 mark) on a night the Rangers were starting lefty Kason Gabbard.

And Gomes said he actually had about 300 at-bats of experience as a leadoff hitter during his 2002 season at Class A Bakersfield and his 2003 stay at Double-A Orlando.

"Whenever the team was in a jam, [Minor League manager] Charlie Montoyo would always put me in the leadoff spot, so I've done it before," Gomes said. "Power is really 1-through-9 in the batting order now anyway. It's good for Aki to get a day off, and it really doesn't affect the pitches I see.

"It makes sense, with my numbers against lefties. But you're probably not going to see me square around [to bunt]."

Navarro on a tear: Catcher Dioner Navarro was back in the lineup Sunday, batting eighth despite his recent hot spell.

Carl Crawford's 12-game hitting streak (and 22 hits over the previous eight games) justifiably has garnered much attention in recent days. But Navarro quietly has been nearly as hot, with eight hits in his last 13 at-bats (.615) to pull his average up from .189 to .209.

"I feel great," said Navarro. "It's been tough the whole season long, and I've had a little bad luck hitting it at people. But it's nice to get on a streak like this, and I hope it stays through the end of the season."

Navarro recently lowered his hands at the behest of Maddon and hitting coach Steve Henderson, and his subsequent ability to get his bat through the hitting zone quicker has sparked his success. But Navarro admitted he also is superstitious enough to maintain the same pregame routine that has accompanied his hot streak. That includes playing the Tiger Woods golf video game at least an hour a day.

Jackson stays centered: Right-hander Edwin Jackson said he received many calls from friends and family following his first career shutout, Saturday's four-hit, 3-0 victory over the Rangers. But he said it already was time to look ahead to his next start, Friday against Cleveland.

"I've got to look at every game like it was the first game of the season," said Jackson (3-11). "I'm not going to get caught up in what happened in the past, good or bad. I just want to try to build on every start. And every game, I always feel there is something you can improve upon."

It will be tough to top Saturday's effort. Jackson blanked the Rangers on 110 pitches, walking one, striking out eight and allowing just one batter past second base. He still was throwing at 99 mph in the bottom of the ninth on an oppressively hot night in Texas.

"That was probably the most efficient with pitches I've been in a game," Jackson said. "Who knows how it will carry over? It's tough to say. My next start, I could have a bad start. But my confidence hasn't changed. It was the same [Saturday] as it was when I was 0-8. I just knew if I kept throwing, things would change, eventually."

Maybe next year: Unless the Rays start pitching them on short rest or in relief, it appears staff aces Scott Kazmir (9-7) and James Shields (9-7) have lost their chances to become 20-game winners this year. As the schedule falls, each is down to his final nine or 10 starts in 2007.

Think it's impossible to see a 20-game winner on a team that loses 100 games? Well, it actually has been done once before in the American League.

In 1951, the virtually unknown Ned Garver picked a shocking time to have his first winning season. He did it in the fourth year of his career for the pitiful St. Louis Browns, who finished 52-102, 46 games out of first place. The Browns led the Majors in runs allowed while finishing last in runs scored, hits, batting average and on-base percentage.

On a team that also featured Satchel Paige, it was Garver who finished as the only Browns pitcher with a winning record that year, going 20-12. It was one of only three winning records Garver posted in his career.

Minor League report: Class A Columbus left fielder Ryan Royster homered for the sixth straight game Saturday night in an 8-6 victory over Greensboro. Royster had eight homers in an eight-game span to take over the league lead with 24. ... Catcher Alex Jamieson had two RBIs in Class A Vero Beach's 5-1 victory over Lakeland. ... First baseman Rhyne Hughes went 2-for-4 in Double-A Montgomery's 5-3 victory over Chattanooga, lifting his average to .343. ... Left-hander J.P. Howell (5-6) struck out nine in 7 1/3 innings to lead Triple-A Durham past Charlotte, 3-2.

Briefly: Right-hander Jay Witasick pitched a scoreless inning in his second Minor League rehab appearance with Vero Beach. ... Jackson's complete-game shutout was the 15th in Rays history, a total amassed by 11 different starters. ... The last complete-game shutout by a Rays pitcher was Kazmir's two-hit victory over Boston on July 3, 2006. Four teams currently have longer droughts between complete-game shutouts than the 13-month stretch the Rays just ended: the Dodgers' (last by Jeff Weaver on Sept. 12, 2005), the Braves (Tim Hudson on May 1, 2006), the Rangers (Kameron Loe on May 12, 2006) and the Padres (Chan Ho Park on June 2, 2006).

Up next: Shields (9-7, 4.32 ERA) is scheduled to face Boston righty Tim Wakefield (13-10, 4.81 ERA) in Monday's opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.