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03/08/09 6:08 PM ET

Gomes is Red hot out of the gate

Non-roster invitee making roster decisions difficult

SARASOTA, Fla. -- In his situation, non-roster outfielder Jonny Gomes knew he couldn't afford a slow start to camp with the Reds.

Anything but that, in fact. While many players use Spring Training to prepare for the regular season, Gomes had to be season ready from the get-go.

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Proving himself to be well prepared, Gomes is batting .429 (6-for-14) with two homers and nine RBIs in eight spring games. In Sunday's 6-5, 10-inning win vs. the Blue Jays, he launched a two-run homer over the left-field wall.

"Not being on the 40-man roster, a Minor League invite, when it comes it down to cut time, I don't think you have a good argument with, 'Let me get 20 more at-bats,'" Gomes said. "I had to come in here ready, physically, mentally and all of the above. I think I have. It's paying off for me right now."

By being hot out of the gate, Gomes has only helped himself in a wide open competition for the left-field spot that features many contenders. Chris Dickerson, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jacque Jones are the main competition, but there's also Laynce Nix, and Darnell McDonald has been hitting very well.

Last season, the 28-year-old Gomes batted .182 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in 77 games with the Rays. He was not offered a contract in December and signed as a free agent with Cincinnati.

"You know, I'd never recommend getting non-tendered to any ballplayer," Gomes said with a deadpan expression. "But it will definitely get you ready for Spring Training. "I just came in ready -- legs, arms, everything. You never know what's going to be asked and sure enough, they dropped first base on me. I took it with a smile, borrowed a glove and went over there."

Where did Gomes get the mitt?

"I don't even know -- some catcher to tell you the truth," he responded.

For the second time this spring, Gomes started at first base on Sunday. He's been working hard to be viewed as adequate. The potential versatility could boost his chances of making the team.

"They've been patient with me. They knew there would be a learning curve there," said Gomes, who never previously played first base at any level. "Learning a new position at 28 years old in the big leagues with big league hitters -- isn't as easy as it sounds."

"I'm giving him an opportunity, a big-time opportunity and he's doing it," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He's playing good at first base and he's getting comfortable and more confident in his game."

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