Dee Gordon is adjusting to center field, and by all accounts he is doing well. He says he’s okay with the change now, too. But that wasn’t his immediate reaction.
“I was a little appalled,” Gordon revealed in Mariners camp. “I was a little mad. I didn’t really see another All-Star second basemen being moved to center field. It was crazy. But I’m good.”
He meant he’s good now. But he obviously was as shocked as anyone when he received the call letting him know that he was traded to Seattle, 3,299 miles from Miami, and now a center fielder, which is pretty far away from second base. He had turned himself into one of the better second basemen in the game, and frankly, couldn’t believe it at first. The Mariners had talked to a few center fielders early, including Jon Jay (now with the Royals) and their own Jarrod Dyson, now with the D-backs.
But he’s adjusted, and people who’ve seen him say he has adjusted nicely.
“It’s going good,” he confirmed.
He’s gotten help from Mariners legendary center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. and others, but based on what’s going on so far, he may be a natural.
“Not surprisingly, his initial reaction was one of shock when we asked him to switch positions,” Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said. “We talked about our plan, discussed how he fit here and explained this wasn’t a super utility play but rather a serious commitment as our center fielder. Since that discussion, he’s been nothing short of tremendous in every way.”
That doesn’t mean it hasn’t taken extra work, and won’t take more work.
“This game ain’t easy,” Gordon said, colorfully. “I don’t take nothing for granted,” he added, also colorfully, for emphasis.
Gordon worked in the offseason with Ender Inciarte, one of the best center fielders in the game, and also Carlos Gonzalez. Chris Prieto, the Mariners’ minor-league outfield coach, is his go-to guy with the Mariners, staying with him every step of the way.
“His transition has been smooth, largely due to how hard he’s worked at it,” Dipoto said. “Great athlete, excellent instincts and he loves to play. We had high hopes, and he’s exceeded them all to this point.”
He loved his time in Miami, where he enjoyed a positional core of stars and will be recalled for a couple of huge years, including 2017, when he reached 200 hits, and memorably the last week of 2016, when he hit an improbable, long upper-deck home run in the first game back after Marlins star Jose Fernandez tragically died in a boating accident. It was an emotional time, and Gordon and his teammates were overcome by the moment.
He said he won’t be following the Marlins, who held an all-time fire sale, excising three star outfielders plus Gordon, who’s hoping to become a star outfielder himself. He made clear he has absolutely no interest in what goes on with the Marlins now, or really anything with the Marlins.
“Zero percent interest,” he made clear – though he did make one exception, that being infield coach Perry Hill, who helped turn Gordon into an All-Star second baseman after he came from L.A. He loves Hill, and said he texts him regularly. But he has outfield coaches now that are trying to turn him into an All-Star outfielder.
What Gordon remembers most is that his family, which means so much to him, got the opportunity to see him play regularly – he is from the Orlando area. Gordon is big on family, and folks know that his father, Tom, was a major-league star and younger brother Nick is a big-time prospect with the Twins. He wears a pendant with a picture of him and his late mother Devona Denis Strange, who was tragically murdered by a boyfriend who shot her when Dee was only 6.
Gordon has been through a lot in his young career. So the transition to center field, in the end, is a small thing.