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Gomez looks to lighten up, break slump

Gomez looks to lighten up

DETROIT -- Carlos Gomez is known for his infectious smile. It's that smile and the enthusiasm he brings on the field that has helped spark the Twins at times this season.

But in recent days, that smile has been noticeably missing.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after Friday's game the club was just trying to get Gomez to have fun playing the game once again. That's because Gomez's recent struggles have the center fielder pressing at the plate and trying just a bit too hard.

"Every time he's making an out, he's driving himself crazy," Gardenhire said. "You can see him gripping the bat too tight, and his stance goes from here to there. So I just said, 'Hey, let's have fun and just play.' He brings so much to the table for our team with his enthusiasm and play in center field that I don't want him to put so much emphasis on every at-bat."

Gomez recorded outs in his first two at-bats on Saturday, but snapped his 0-for-21 streak with an infield hit in the fifth inning.

"I was very happy to get that hit," Gomez said. "When you are struggling perhaps like this, you get started again and feel pretty good."

Gomez was given a day off on Wednesday in Boston to try and get himself back on track. That wasn't the case before Saturday, as he struck out four times in nine plate appearances during the first two games of a four-game set at Detroit.

The 22-year-old center fielder has 95 strikeouts this season, but Gardenhire doesn't want him to focus too much on that statistic.

"We know what we have with him, a free swinger and a guy that can ignite your team, bunt and all those things," Gardenhire said. "Right now, he's going to strike out. Until he learns a few things about hitting, he's going to strike out. We live with it. We're working on it to make adjustments, but I just don't want him to get too emotionally wrapped up in it. And that's what he is [doing] right now."

Gardenhire has spent quite a bit of time talking to Gomez and trying to get him in a better state of mind. And despite Gomez's recent troubles, Gardenhire said he had not put any thought into changing his lineup and flip-flopping his leadoff batter and current No. 9 hitter Denard Span, who is hitting .455 since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester June 30.

"He's a young kid, and you start moving him around it will knock his socks off, believe me," Gardenhire said. "Let him get through this. If it eventually gets to the point where he's not able to handle it, then we can move him down and flip-flop."

But Gomez has been through these stretches already this season. He sat in Oakland for a day in late April after striking out four times in one game. He's been able to rebound from slumps before, and the feeling is he will again.

"He could go out there today and get one or two hits in a game and it could go away in one day," Gardenhire said. "That's how quickly it happens with a young player, or pretty much with any player. ... The mental part of this game is way harder than the physical part. He's fighting that part right now and we'll see if we can get through it."

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

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