Jonny Gomes adds balance to Nationals’ bench

Jonny Gomes arrived in Washington on Wednesday afternoon, immediately surrounded by a handful of players he’s met in other cities and still trying to process the latest wrinkle in his travels as a major leaguer.

The outfielder, who is in his ninth year in the majors, had never been traded before, but he had a hunch in the last few weeks that he might be on his way out of Cincinnati. When the news came last night that he was headed to the Nationals, Gomes wasn’t shocked.

“I don’t really know how to take it - (is it) a team giving up on you, or a team grabbing you, wanting your services and reaching out to you?” Gomes said. “I’m definitely a glass-half-full guy. I take the positives out of it. I’m excited to be here the last couple months (of the season).”

He’ll likely play left field when the Nationals need a right-handed bat and come off the bench against righties. When asked about the move, the thing manager Davey Johnson said Gomes provides the most is “balance.

“We had a little bit of an over-balance,” Johnson said. “We were short a right-handed hitter, and we were using an infielder basically out there (in the outfield against left-handed pitchers), with (Brian) Bixler and (Jerry) Hairston. The balance isn’t where I’d like it to be, but it’s closer now.”

Gomes has hit 11 homers in 218 at-bats this season, and has a.735 OPS, which isn’t great by any means, but is better than his .211 average would suggest. He’ll immediately become Johnson’s best homer threat off the bench against a lefty; he’s hitting .333/.439/.537 against them this year.

When he got traded, one of the first players he contacted was Nationals left fielder Laynce Nix, who played with Gomes in Cincinnati. He’d also played with Hairston, and got to know Alex Cora when he was with Tampa Bay and Cora was with the Red Sox.

Now, Gomes is hoping he can find a level of comfort quickly.

“When you’ve got a GM giving up some of his prospects for you, it opens up your eyes,” he said. “You don’t want to bum him out by any means. I’m over here to play, and I’m over here to prove myself and prove him right.”