Gomez hits homer in homecoming vs. Twins

Gomez hits homer in homecoming vs. Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had a visitor to his office early on Friday afternoon and he was happy to see the familiar face.

Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez had stopped by to say hello to his former skipper and Gardenhire said that while Gomez may be playing for a different team this year, not much else has changed about the gregarious outfielder.

"He was typical Go-Go, funny," Gardenhire said. "It was fun to see him. We miss him a lot. I knew he was going to come back and play against us. There was no way he wasn't going to be healthy for us."

The outfielder had worked hard just in order to be ready for this series. Gomez was activated from the disabled list just in time for Friday's series opener between the two Interleague rivals after missing only the minimum 15 days.

Gomez arrived at Target Field early on Friday afternoon, eager to catch up with some of his former teammates and coaches. There was no question that Gomez had been looking forward to this day, when he would get to play against the Twins for the first time since being traded to Milwaukee last November.

"I feel really good," said Gomez, who had been sidelined with a strained left rotator cuff. "And I saw the lineup and I play right away. I'm just excited to be here."

In his first game back since the injury, Gomez got the start in center and was batting second for the Brewers. He was greeted by some cheers from the Target Field crowd when he stepped to the plate for his at-bat in the first inning, which resulted in a groundout to the shortstop.

But his first game back against the Twins wasn't without some controversy. Gomez went 2-for-4 including a three-run homer into the left-field second deck in the eighth. And it was the way that Gomez celebrated the homer -- flipping his bat very close to Twins catcher Joe Mauer and stopping to admire his shot before trotting slowly around the bases, which irritated the Twins. After all, the homer wasn't a factor in the contest, as it gave the Brewers their only runs in what was a 15-3 loss.

"Some things never change," said Gardenhire. "He irritated a few people. It's just the way it is. He hit a home run. He can watch ESPN and watch himself watch it some more."

Twins starter Nick Blackburn was visibly unhappy during the play on the field, but afterward said that he wasn't going to hold any bad feelings about it.

"We played with him the last couple years, that's the type of player he is," Blackburn said. "It made me mad, but I shouldn't be getting mad at stuff like that. I'm sure everyone on his team also knew he shouldn't have done it, but that's the type of guy he is. He gets so caught up in the moment."

After the contest, Gomez was very apologetic over his actions and admitted to letting his excitement overtake his thought process.

"It's nothing I've got personal. I got so excited," Gomez said. "Right now, I feel bad because Blackburn is one of the good friends I've got over there. I apologized because I don't want to try to show him up. If they're going to do something tomorrow, I'll take it like a man because I know I did bad.

"I feel, right now, real bad for this," Gomez said. "It was not the right moment to do it. I wasn't thinking, 'If I hit a home run, I'm going to do this.' It happened in the moment, and it happened. We have to be more professional."

The Twins had certainly seen their share of questionable decisions made by the 24-year-old outfielder in his two seasons with the club. But it was a crowded outfield situation that caused the club to deal him to the Brewers last November in exchange for shortstop J.J. Hardy.

The trade provided Gomez with the opportunity to return to a starting role. After playing 148 games in center during his first year with the Twins in 2008, Gomez was forced to split playing time in the outfield with Delmon Young due to the abundance of outfielders. And by the end of the '09 season, Gomez had been relegated to coming off the bench as a late-inning defensive replacement.

So far the trade has seemed to work out for both clubs, as both Gomez and Hardy were mainstays in their club's starting lineup before being sidelined recently by injuries. While Gomez was back in the lineup on Friday, Hardy is not expected to play during this series. The Twins shortstop was eligible to come off the DL on Thursday, but he's still recovering from a deep bone bruise in his left wrist.

And while Gardenhire acknowledges that he misses Gomez, the trade has perhaps saved some of his hair as over the past two seasons he often joked about Gomez's actions making him want to pull some of it out.

When Brewers manager Ken Macha was asked before Friday's contest about whether Gomez has driven him to do that yet, he smiled and said, no.

"Not all players are perfect," he said. "Guys are going to make mistakes. As far as pulling my hair out, no, I haven't done that just yet."

Perhaps there might have been a different answer after Friday's contest.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.