MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians manager Terry Francona does not want to mess with a good thing. That is why he plans on keeping left-hander Scott Kazmir teamed with backup catcher Yan Gomes for the foreseeable future.
"He's done such a good job," Francona said of Gomes, "and it seems like he got [Kazmir] on a roll. ... Unless something happens, we'll keep doing it. And we want Gomes to play."
A quick glance at the numbers makes it easy to see why Francona likes the pairing.
In 11 starts with Gomes behind the plate, Kazmir has posted a 2.95 ERA with a .630 opponents' OPS over 64 innings. In six starts with catcher Carlos Santana, the left-hander has a 7.39 ERA to go along with a 1.041 opponents' OPS across 28 innings.
Gomes has caught each of Kazmir's last six starts, during which the pitcher has gone 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP in 37 innings. During that stretch, Kazmir has ranked first among American League starters (minimum 25 innings) in opponents' on-base percentage (.229) and second with an average of 7.78 baserunners per nine innings.
"He's a great catcher," Kazmir said. "I just feel like we've clicked and everything. Not to say anything about one or the other -- we just ended up going on a consecutive streak. It's just one of those things. He's knowledgeable about the game. He really is. He calls a great game and receives the ball really well."
Francona said he does not typically like to fall into a situation where a pitcher has a personal catcher (pairing knuckleballer Tim Wakefield with catcher Doug Mirabelli in Boston was an exception). There are times, however, when doing so makes sense in light of the production.
"I've never been real big on doing that," Francona said, "because you kind of pigeonhole yourself with a lineup."
When Francona starts Gomes, the manager usually shifts Santana to first base or designated hitter. That causes a chain reaction that forces one of the club's regulars to the bench. One of the positives of starting Gomes in games, though, is that it builds in time for the young catcher to play.
"When he first came up," Francona said, "I remember saying, 'We'll keep him here as long as it doesn't get in the way of his development.' And he's playing enough where he's OK."