In the third inning of his Twins debut, Carlos Gomez bunted the ball toward first base, accelerated at an improbable rate and dived toward the bag.
Those unfamiliar with Gomez might have assumed he slid into first trying to avoid a tag. Those who have seen him run probably figured he was just trying to avoid slamming into the right field wall.
Until baseball players are allowed to wear parachutes on their backs, Gomez might have to find creative ways to apply the brakes. He never slowed down Monday in the Twins' opener, finishing 2-for-3 with a walk, two steals, two runs, a double and a long running catch on which he covered more ground than Minnesota slush.
He also drew six pickoff attempts and one pitchout and came close to christening the FieldTurf with tears. "I was so excited to be here, to have this opportunity, that when I came down the stairs to stretch today, I felt like I could cry," Gomez said. "I said thank you to the coaches and the staff and my teammates for the opportunity."
Gomez promised to grab the attention of opposing pitchers, and he did so on the third pitch of his Twins career.
During his first at-bat, he fouled a 1-1 pitch off a speaker in foul territory, which is a dead ball in the Metrodome. When the ball glanced back toward the field, Angels starter Jared Weaver began sprinting to catch it and Gomez reacted, almost running over Weaver on his way to first.
Then Gomez smacked a high, inside pitch over the third-base bag for a double, and scored easily on Joe Mauer's single to center.
In the third, Gomez pushed a bunt toward first. Weaver had no chance. First baseman Casey Kotchman fielded it and had no chance, so he flipped to second baseman Howie Kendrick, who, it turns out, had no chance.
Gomez slid -- whether for safety or dramatic effect -- and, as he promised, the Angels began fretting. Weaver tried three pickoff attempts, then a pitchout as Gomez took off toward second. Catcher Mike Napoli rushed his throw, which was high, but Gomez would have beaten it anyway. He moved to third on Mauer's grounder before being stranded.
In the fifth, Gomez, who sometimes swings so hard he falls to one knee, drew a walk, then two pickoff attempts, before stealing second again.
He moved to third on Mauer's grounder and scored on Michael Cuddyer's single.
Gomez struck out in the seventh, maybe just to give his legs a rest. "He got goosey," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's going to happen. But he had a great bunt to first base, and a Nick Punto dive, and all the pickoffs. We got it all."
Even a walk. "It might be the last one," Gardenhire said. "But he drew one."
In the field, Gomez handled the dingy Dome without a problem and made one running catch that might not have been fully appreciated.
In the top of the fifth, with two outs and a runner on first, Gomez was playing Gary Matthews Jr. in the left-center gap. Matthews hit a shot toward right-center. When the ball left the bat, it looked like a double. When it landed in Gomez's glove, he had almost overrun it.
The Twins won 3-2, and Gomez had created two runs, legged his way to third another time and saved at least one run, while Torii Hunter went 0-for-4 in his return.
After the game, Twins closer Joe Nathan raved about what Hunter did for the Twins, then about what Gomez promises to do. "He was outstanding," Nathan said. "That's pretty much as perfect a game as you could write up for the guy.
"When he gets his wheels going, it doesn't look like he's running, it looks like he's floating across the field. He's a special talent."
Gomez looked elated and grateful after the game, having heard ovations for his predecessor and himself.
"I know everybody loves a player like me," Gomez said. "Today, we hit two base hits. Maybe tomorrow we won't have no base hits, but when you play hard, everybody loves you."
And when you play fast, everybody watches.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • firstname.lastname@example.org