When the Dodgers kicked off their spring training camp nearly a month ago, almost everyone thought that Cuban shortstop-turned-second baseman Alex Guerrero was the odds-on favorite to land the everyday second baseman job, this in spite of the fact that he has never played the position in his professional career. In fact, during a January 10, 2014 press conference, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said the Guerrero was “leading the pack” for the everyday second base job. Colletti’s prediction appeared to be spot on during the first two weeks of spring training when Guerrero was playing well on both sides of the ball causing Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to say “If I get 25 efforts like I get from Alex every day we’re going to be fine.”
But while Guerrero is receiving most of the attention and accolades, there is another guy in camp working every bit as hard or perhaps even harder than Guerrero trying to land that everyday second base job - 25-year-old Dee Gordon.
Whereas Guerrero has been hot and cold thus far this spring and has made a few baserunning gaffs, Gordon has been a bit more consistent. Through eight games Gordon has had 15 at bats, collected three hits (including two triples), driven in three runs and has stolen three bases without being caught. While these offensive numbers aren’t exactly earth-shattering, it is Gordon’s defense that is putting him ahead of Guerrero in the race for the second baseman job.
“I think we’re pretty comfortable with the way he looks at second base,” said Mattingly of Gordon. “Still wanting him to make sure, the way he’s hitting, make sure he knows who he is as a hitter, bunting is part of his game, keep the ball out of the air is part of the things we’ve talked to Dee about, so we’ll continue to stay on him about his game offensively. Obviously he’s going to have to keep working at second base but we’re comfortable with the way he looks.”
Another option that was being floated around before camp began was the possibility of platooning the second base position between Guerrero, Gordon, Justin Turner, and Mike Baxter, but almost four weeks into camp it seems that Mattingly might be changing his position on this – perhaps a result of what he is seeing in Gordon.
“Spring is going to tell us where it goes, we’re starting to get some idea,” said Mattingly. “We don’t have a whole lot of games to be able to look at everybody but I think that by the time we leave here I feel like we’re going to be pretty comfortable at second base.”
In spite of Gordon’s early spring training success, the Windermere, FL native has remained humble and has exhibited what can only be described as a great attitude about where he is at and what he hopes to accomplish.
“I just want to play everyday,” Gordon said. “It doesn’t matter where I play, I just want to be on the field everyday. I’ve worked hard this off-season. I’ve worked on my hand speed and I’m working on keeping the ball out of the air. I’ve kept myself under the radar.”
In spite of his humility, Gordon has been anything but under the radar, and even though Mattingly isn’t prepared to come right out and say who his opening day second baseman will be just yet, he has certainly hinted that Gordon will be on the Dodgers opening day roster – even if in a utility role.
“He’ll get a little bit of outfield, I’ve got him in center tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Mattingly. “I want to get him enough for us to figure out a value there. We’ve got that utility spot that we’re trying to figure out also, so we need to find out what our guys can do and can’t do and that’s really what we’re trying to do in a short period of time. Even though he’s playing mostly second base, we do want to get him a touch in the outfield so that if he would have to do that in any situation it wouldn’t be the first time.”
With only 11 spring training games remaining before the Dodgers head down under for the opening series against the Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia on March 22-23, and because anything can happen in this crazy game, there are no guarantees that Gordon will be the Dodgers opening day second baseman, but the way he has prepared himself both mentally and physically, he is definitely making a strong case for doing just that.