PHOENIX -- When the Dodgers opened camp last month, there was only one starting job up for grabs. Now that competition may be drawing to a close as well, with Dee Gordon looking more and more like the opening day second baseman.
Manager Don Mattingly has repeatedly praised the play of Gordon, who is hitting .208 but leading the majors with two triples and eight stolen bases. Another window into the team’s thinking opened Monday when Gordon hit leadoff in the Dodgers’ Cactus League exhibition with Oakland while Cuban defector Alex Guerrero, his chief rival at second, was banished to a back field for a scrimmage against minor leaguers.
“He’s been really good,” Mattingly said of Gordon, a natural shortstop who has played just three big-league innings at second. “Defensively, I think he looks a lot more comfortable. We continue to try to just help him understand exactly who he is as a hitter, how he’s going to be most effective. Make sure he’s putting his tools to work all the time.”
Chief among those tools is blinding speed, which is why the Dodgers have been working with Gordon to hit the ball on the ground. That can unsettle opponents, as it did in a recent game with Seattle when Gordon beat out a grounder to short in one at-bat, then later forced pitcher Logan Kensing to rush his throw after a chopper back to box, turning an easy out into the equivalent of a double.
“You hit the ball in the air in the big leagues, you’re going to be out. It’s not Little League. They’re going to catch it,” Mattingly said. “So he has to hit the ball on the ground, be able use his speed.
“He just has to kind of know who he is. As a hitter. And that’s what we’ve been trying to ask him to do. And if he gets on, he’s going to be dynamic.”