Thursday, April 10, 2014
Gordon hoping to fulfill his promise
By Anthony Witrado Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- Dee Gordon was the main character in tales of hope and amazement in this city of stars before he even had his named inked onto a major league lineup card.
Before games at Dodger Stadium, coaches and scouts would dish stories of his speed and how he could put the stadium in awe by turning walks into triples. He was also a shortstop, a glamour position that hadn't been occupied by anyone glamorous here in years.
Dee Gordon is showing more maturity in his approach for the Dodgers, and that could lead to more staying power for him on the roster.
Yeah, Dee Gordon was going to be flashy, maybe even taking over the nickname his father Tom "Flash" Gordon made popular among seamheads as a reliever for more than 20 seasons.
And finally, after two seasons of disappointment, all of those expectations may be coming to fruition as the younger Gordon is putting his tools to use, including slapping a tying single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to send Wednesday’s game into extra innings -- a game the Los Angeles Dodgers eventually lost 7-6 to the Detroit Tigers.
It wasn't always this sweet for Gordon, though.
After showing real promise in 233 plate appearances in 2011, Gordon made his first Opening Day roster in 2012, but his shine quickly dulled when it became evident he couldn't defend his position well and was too flawed mechanically and physically to put up satisfactory offensive numbers.
Since then Gordon has struggled to stick on the 25-man roster despite hitting .311/.377/.773 with 81 steals over parts of three seasons at Triple-A Alburquerque (778 plate appearances). The classic Four-A player: good enough to leave the final level of the minors but not good enough for the big leagues.
But this season is shaping up differently. Gordon put on 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason, moved over to second base and made his second Opening Day roster. And now he is hitting like he can be a real weapon in an already loaded Dodgers lineup, collecting three hits Wednesday to punch his average up to .394 (13-for-33) with a .977 OPS, five RBIs and five stolen bases in nine games.
"I'm feeling pretty good. I've been working my butt off," Gordon said. "It feels good to get some results, but I'm still going to trust the process. It's a long season."
A sign of Gordon's maturity is that he picked up three more hits a game after hitting a leadoff home run against the Tigers on Tuesday. It was the third homer of his career, but after the first two Dodgers coaches believed Gordon tried too much to lift the ball. After his first major league homer in 2012, Gordon hit .185 in his next 14 games. After his second a year later, Gordon hit .088 in his next 11.
"We like what he's doing for us," manager Don Mattingly said. "I'm seeing flat foul balls coming [down the third-base line]. If I see him rolling over little grounders foul down to first base, then I don't like that.
"The at-bats after the home runs are good. Even the outs. If he keeps battling and puts the ball in play he's going to get a lot of hits because anything that hits the ground twice, he's going to be safe."
Gordon's defense is still progressing, but he profiles to be a much better defensive second baseman than he was a shortstop. And he is gifted with breakneck speed, meaning if he can find ways to keep the ball on the ground and draw walks, he will finally start to live up to the legend that reached Dodger Stadium before him.
This is early success, however. Gordon knows the ups and downs of a major league season because he has been sent back to the minors enough times that it is still too fresh in his mind to think he has permanent staying power.
"I ain't doing no daydreaming. Daydreaming will get you in trouble," Gordon said with a grin. "I'm just going to keep playing and doing what I'm doing to help the team win."