NEW YORK - For the majority of his seven-year career, Jeanmar Gomez has existed in the shadows. He failed as a starter for the Cleveland Indians, so he became a middle reliever. His most frequent appearances are in the sixth and seventh innings. He did his job so well last season - e.g., no one noticed the lean righthander - that the Phillies paid him $1.4 million to return.
Now, he is their closer.
"For me, I don't think too much about that," the soft-spoken Gomez said. "If you're thinking too much, you try to do more than you can do. Just try to get strikes. Try to make quality pitches. Try to stay down in the zone."
Gomez did just that twice in two games against the Mets, and he made it look simple. He threw six pitches Saturday night. He needed just 14 on Sunday to post his second save in a row. They were anticlimactic moments for this beleaguered bullpen.
Maybe the laid-back Gomez, who does not possess the typical stuff of a closer, is a good fit for the role. Gomez had one career save, in 2014 with Pittsburgh, before Saturday.
"Let's put it this way: He did a good job," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That goes to show you, you don't have to throw 96 mph to be a closer. You make quality pitches with good stuff and you've got a chance."
A week ago, Mackanin said he was hesitant to use Gomez in the eighth or ninth innings because he appeared comfortable in a middle-relief spot. Desperation changed the thinking.
Gomez, 28, signed a minor-league deal before the 2015 season. He led the Phillies in appearances with 65.
He does not throw hard; his fastball will top out at 93 mph. But opposing hitters made weaker contact against Gomez, who had a 3.01 ERA last season. He rolled more ground balls. He was luckier on fly balls.
"Last year, I tried to attack the hitters," Gomez said. "I didn't want to be too fine in the zone. That's what I had a problem with in past years. So I tried to be aggressive in the zone and be down."
And, for now, that is enough to qualify him as the Phillies closer.
Cameron Rupp, not Carlos Ruiz, will catch Aaron Nola in the home opener Monday at Citizens Bank Park. Last week, Mackanin leaned toward starting both Ruiz and Ryan Howard for "sentimental" reasons. Only Howard will play.
Mackanin said he wants to keep Rupp paired with Nola.
Cesar Hernandez, who has made three outs on the bases and failed to score from third on a dribbler Saturday night, stole the team's first base on Sunday. . . . Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel is still searching for his first hit. He pinch-hit and struck out Sunday. The rookie is 0 for 5 with four strikeouts.