Last offseason, Carlos Gomez spent the winter working on his approach at the plate with former big league catcher and manager Tony Pena. ?

The work paid off, and the Brewers center fielder put together the best season of his career. As he enters the final year of his contract, Gomez recognizes the importance of 2013 and has again taken a different approach to his offseason routine. For the first time in his 10 professional seasons, the 27-year-old didn't play any kind of winter ball.

Instead, Gomez spent the offseason working with former major league outfielder Manny Ramirez in the Dominican Republic.

"To have the opportunity to work with one of the best hitters in the game for a long time, that's going to help for this season," Gomez said when in Milwaukee for Brewers on Deck last weekend.

After taking a month off to recover from a season in which he hit a career-best .260 with a career-high 19 home runs and 51 RBI to go along with a career-high 37 stolen bases, Gomez got to work. He's spent the past two months building body strength, adding flexibility and improving his already blazing speed.

"This year is special for me," Gomez said. "When you have a good season, you have to get better. I worked on my body to get stronger and faster than I used to be. I take my time with my family and work out every day so when I come to spring training I'm ready to start right away."

The focus on personal improvement was only one of the factors that played into his decision to skip winter ball. Gomez has always been a family man, but his appreciation for his family grew after the scare his young son Yandel endured last winter.

Playing winter ball at the time, Gomez had to leave his team when Yandel was hospitalized for 15 days with meningitis and bacteria that spread into his brain. Gomez endured a tough time while he sat by his son's hospital bed as doctors tried to figure out the best way to treat him. After the scare, Gomez knew he had to spend more time with his now 4-year-old son. He woke up early each day to make sure his workouts would be over by noon so the rest of his day could be spent as a father.