Leo Gomez is playing for half of what he thinks he's worth, but he's playing a lot better.
The Orioles third baseman lost his arbitration case yesterday and will be forced to play the 1995 season for $925,000, half of his asking price of $1.85 million.
Gomez also got his first extra-base hit and his second RBI of the season yesterday, breaking open a 6-1 victory over the Indians. If his offensive contributions ameliorated any pain caused by his arbitration defeat, Gomez didn't show it.
"You can't worry about what happens in the front office," Gomez said, alluding to yesterday's decision by the three-member arbitration panel. "You have to focus on what happens out on the field."
To use one of Gomez's favorite sayings -- he was just doing his job.
He did it yesterday, snapping a 1-1 tie with a fifth-inning double down the left-field line, scoring Bret Barberie, who reached on a fielder's choice, in a close play at the plate.
It was Gomez's second RBI, the first coming Wednesday night in Boston on a sacrifice fly, and his first extra-base hit of the season.
After going 2-for-4 with two singles on Friday, Gomez seems to have turned a corner offensively.
"I think Leo's a little more relaxed," Orioles manager Phil Regan said. "He's been taking some extra hitting and he's played well the last two or three days. I think he's started to get his stroke back."
He's still below the Mendoza line with a .190 batting average but that's not nearly as bad as when it hovered around .143.
During his batting sessions, Gomez has been working with hitting coach Lee May on starting his swing with his hands, not his body, and hitting the ball more to the opposite field, especially on outside pitches.
May, who has been mum about the specific changes to Gomez's swing, said more improvement is on the way.
"He's not there yet," May said. "That's not the real Leo. When it is, you'll see his RBIs and batting average soar."
Who is the real Leo Gomez? The one who hit .197 in 71 games in 1993 or the one who took Chris Sabo's job last year at the prodding of the owner he called Uncle Angelos.
Gomez finished last season with a .274 batting average, 15 home runs, and 56 runs batted in -- numbers that were not good enough to win his arbitration case, which was held Thursday, or to convince the Orioles that his early-season slump was not a repeat of 1993.
tTC This week, the club reportedly inquired about the services of Texas Rangers third baseman Dean Palmer and wanted to include Gomez as part of the deal.
"I don't worry about what people said," Gomez said, referring to the trade rumors. "I'm just working hard and trying to do my best."
Gomez's turnaround the last few games has given the Orioles hope they will not need to trade.
And it has given Gomez confidence that will start to hit. He will not worry about his arbitration loss. He's just going to do his job.