Brantley, Gomes honored to win Silver Slugger Awards
The Indians duo share their thoughts on the award and look ahead to 2015
They first came to Cleveland as virtual no names.
One, as a player to be named later, the other listed as a utility man.
Now household names and Tribe cornerstones, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes have each been awarded one of baseball’s highest honors: The Silver Slugger Award.
“It’s a great honor,” Brantley said. “From the coaching staff, teammates, to the trainers, to my family’s support, just everybody that helped me get through the season, and the season we had together, to be recognized for these awards it’s a blessing and an honor.”
The two become the first Cleveland duo to take home the award in the same season since Manny Ramirez and Roberto Alomar back in the year 2000.
Here’s more of what Tribe All-Star had to say on a phone conference with reporters on Friday.
Q: What was the key to taking the next step offensively while maintaining consistency?
Brantley: “One of the biggest things was I changed my mental approach. I wasn’t up there just trying to walk or work counts. I was really trying to get a fastball early and put a good swing on it. In the past, I never tried to do that before. I used to try to work counts, get on base, making sure I was getting the perfect pitch. This year, I wanted to be more aggressive. I figured maybe there’s a good first-pitch fastball to hit early. I was ready to swing and try to put a good swing on the ball.
Q: Will you do anything different with your offseason training this winter?
Brantley: “Not at all. I really pride myself on just kind of working hard in the offseason. I’ve been kind of doing the same routine for the last couple years. I’m just making sure I stay consistent. I think it’s consistency, your workout routines and eating right, making sure that you come in healthy to Spring Training ready to play. I’m not a position player that feels like I take Spring Training to get ready. I want to come into Spring Training ready to play, so that once the first game, I’m acclimated and I’m ready to go. Spring Training is short. It’s getting shorter and shorter every year, so you have to come in prepared and ready to play baseball.”
Q: Does it mean more making the All-Star team or being named an MVP finalist?
Brantley: “It’s just an honor to be mentioned for both of them. That’s not something you take lightly. It’s a lot of hard work. Obviously, your peers and voters and everybody have their say as well. I’m just honored to be mentioned in that category of guys that I’m in. I don’t think one award is going to be special more than the other. I just think it’s a good tribute to a lot of hard work paying off.”
Q: Have you had a chance to talk with your dad (Mickey Brantley) and reflect on your season?
Brantley: “We were just talking the other day. After a couple awards came out and I was nominated for a couple things, I looked at him and I said, ‘Hey Pops. I had a pretty good season, huh?’ He just laughed at me. He said, ‘Son, you had a great season.’ I’ve never been that player that is really stat driven. I care about wins and losses and I care about my teammates. That’s what comes first and foremost for me. My goal, just like every other year, as soon as I step into Spring Training, is to get to the postseason and win the World Series. That’s a group effort, and we all know that in the locker room.”
Q: Special to share the Silver Slugger Award with Gomes?
Brantley: “It’s very exciting, because you see all the hard work that he puts in each and every day. He’s a great teammate. He’s one of the leaders on our team. He’s in the cage with me side by side and he works hard each and every day. As a catcher, it’s not easy to catch as many games as he does. To be his teammate and to watch how hard he worked this year, I couldn’t be happier for one of my teammates. He deserves it.”
Q: If the team doesn’t make any big offseason moves, do you think the group in place has what it takes?
Brantley: “Yes I do. We made it to the postseason once already. We’re still adding little pieces to the puzzle, but if we don’t, I just think just being with one another, knowing what you’re going to get out of your teammates to the left and right of you, especially the group here, it’s a great group of guys that we have in the locker room, it’s special. I really think it is. It’s a lot of hard work that we’ve got to put in, and we understand that. We’ve got to continue to push, push each other and work hard, and good things will happen at the end.”
Like Brantley, Gomes couldn’t have been more honored to receive the award.
“It really just sums up a pretty eventful year,” Gomes said. From signing a contract to having my baby and even some of the downs, to end the year like that is pretty amazing. It’s pretty nice right now.”
Here’s more of what the Cleveland backstop had to say Friday.
Q: What helped you stay consistent offensively?
Gomes: “Definitely the more consistent at-bats, and Terry Francona telling me that I needed to just worry about my defense and carrying the pitching staff. I think that definitely helped me relax at the plate. There would be times when if I struggled at the plate for a couple at-bats, I would be able to help the team out defensively. I’d let all the at-bats go and somehow I’d have a good at-bat and I’d try to make a difference. Just being able to relax and not worry so much about the hitting part, I think that helped.”
Q: Was there a point early in the season that you began to relax more?
Gomes: “It’s usually the other way around, I hear. You get a contract, you’re able to relax. I definitely put a little more pressure on myself early in the year and then my wife and I talked, we just relaxed. No matter what happens now, in a way, the contract’s still going to be there. They can’t take it away because I start to suck or something. So, I just started to relax and started to enjoy the game the same way I did before, and then just let that hunger stay in there. I told Tito, ‘That’s something I promise will never go away.'”
Q: Excited to find out where Corey Kluber falls in Cy Young voting?
Gomes: “Absolutely, I’ve been in touch with him a couple times this week and several times this offseason, just talking about how amazing his year was. You know what? If he doesn’t get the hardware, which I think would be upsetting, I think he needs to be still really thrilled and honored with the kind of year that he had. I might be biased, but I think it’s a hands-down thing for him. The way he carried that pitching staff, especially stepping up when they traded Justin Masterson, who was a big core guy in our rotation. I think he definitely helped out.”
Q: What was it like to see the Kansas City Royals in the World Series?
Gomes: “It was almost like I was so jealous. Not to take anything away from Kansas City. After we played them, and I think we were almost on the brink of being eliminated, I talked to a couple of their players and said, ‘Look, you guys are the team to beat in the playoffs. You guys are going to be a tough team to beat,’ just because of the way they played. They had a pretty unbelievable bullpen and they got guys on and moved guys over and scored. Once you get to the World Series, those little runs count. I just felt like it showed that we’re right there too.”
Q: Reaction to Francona signing a contract extension?
Gomes: “That just shows the commitment that the guy has for us. It’s almost like he didn’t even have to do that. He was willing to. I talked to him after the extension happened and I’m just thrilled. I think he told me he’s going to be there for my whole contract. It’s exciting. That guy, he’s helped me a ton throughout the early part of my career. I’m very thankful for that and excited that he’s going to be there for a while.”
Q: Happy to share a Silver Slugger Award with Brantley?
Gomes: “Honestly, I’m so freakin’ thrilled for Mike. He had an unreal year and to be recognized as an MVP Award candidate, the Silver Slugger for him was just a hand’s down thing. He had an amazing year. I credit him a lot for me having the year I had. Seeing him in front of me, he kind of set the tone for the lineup. That helped me out a lot.”
Q: Can the core group in place get it done in 2015?
Gomes: “I think the core group of guys that we have are guys that have had two- or three-year experience with each other. I think we’re going to keep building from that.”
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