CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Yan Gomes said he cried his eyes out while sitting on his hospital bed in mid-September.
His season had already been a tough one to endure, and now he had just been informed of his broken wrist, knowing that likely erased any possibility of playing in the postseason for the Cleveland Indians.
His manager, Terry Francona, left the door slightly open over the final weeks of the regular season, hinting at a one-percent chance of a postseason return for one of the team’s most popular players.
But you won’t have to scroll too far down the Indians’ ALDS roster to find Gomes’ name listed among the active catchers for the Tribe’s opening-round playoff series.
And that in itself is incredible.
Gomes was among the 25 players selected by the Indians for the team’s playoff roster, as Cleveland prepares to open up their first-round series against the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field on Thursday.
“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, man,” Gomes said after learning the news.
That may be understatement of the year.
His presence alone is surprising, considering the 29-year-old catcher had about a thousand reasons — the most recent being the wrist fracture he suffered during his Minor League rehab in September — to pack up and prepare for 2017.
But somehow, the backstop decided to not accept the typical 6-8 week recovery period associated with a wrist fracture and fought his way back into big league games at the end of the season, smacking a homer in his first at-bat after being cleared to begin hitting in game action.
“I’m surprised,” Francona said. “I think we were being really honest about his chances and things like that. I didn’t think it was fair to ever put it out there that there was a possibility, because by all rights, he shouldn’t have had a realistic possibility.”
Gomes hit just .167/.201/.327 with nine homers in 264 plate appearances for Cleveland this season.
His struggles at the plate became overshadowed by the shoulder separation he suffered in Minnesota on July 17. The right-handed hitter managed to navigate through his rehab, appearing to be on track to rejoin the team in late September before a being hit by a pitch in his final Minor League rehab game on Sept. 14.
After being diagnosed with a non-displaced wrist fracture in his right hand, it appeared Gomes’ season from hell had reached its conclusion.
But nobody told Gomes.
The catcher continued to fight to get back, overcoming an injury doctors told him would take a while to heal.
For some, that might have been a rehab death sentence. For Gomes, it was just another challenge worth overcoming.
“Honestly we were joking around in the training room,” Gomes said. “I was like, I ain’t going to hurt it anymore,’ so I just started throwing a baseball, flicking it to the ground. And I’m like, ‘It doesn’t hurt as bad as it’s supposed to.’ So we just decided to start going outside and playing catch and they told me as much as I can tolerate it, keep going.”
Go, he did. And he didn’t stop.
First, he began playing catch. Then he started throwing to the bases. Before long, he was hitting in the cages, activated from the disabled list and given the thumbs up to hit in a ballgame.
Then, a homer in his first game back. Storybook.
“The other day in Kansas City when he hit the home run, to see the reception in the dugout for him, I’m guessing that made a lot of the work worthwhile,” Francona said. “And now to be a part of this, too.”
“To see him come back and make the postseason roster, I’m really happy for him as an individual,” Trevor Bauer, Cleveland’s Game 1 starter, added. “Obviously, he’s going to help our team. There’s no question about that. But just on a personal side, to have him be able to come back and be part of something that he was a big part of all year and over the past couple of years that he’s been here, it’s really great to see for him.”
The biggest key throughout the process? Gomes said it came through letting go of any hesitation he might feel about pushing through the injury. He felt hesitation was the only thing that could truly hold him back.
“That was the only way I could help the team win in any way,” he said. “I’m just going to tape it as tight as we can and hopefully it stays together. But I can tell you, I’m going to give 100 percent every time.”
Given what Gomes has overcome — and the fact that he’s currently playing with a broken bone in his right hand — no one can question that.