Dee Gordon anything but routine
He's erratic, occasionally out of control but the young Dodger is always electrifying
LOS ANGELES -- The home crowd, what there was of it anyway, got its first live look at Dee Gordon on Monday night, the ballyhooed rookie shortstop making his Dodger Stadium debut a week after being called up from the minor leagues.
What those fans saw was a little bit of the raw and the unpolished, a little bit of the dazzling and the eyepopping and a whole lot of what we can expect the future to look like around here.
That future should be interesting, possibly even thrilling at times. But as we witnessed in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 6-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds before 31,372, we also could be in for a bit of a roller-coaster ride.
Even in a ho-hum defeat, there was no denying the human highlight-reel aspect of Gordon's game.
The coup de grace to his scene-stealing individual performance was his trip around the bases in the bottom of the eighth inning. It began when he pulled a Bronson Arroyo changeup up the right-field line and into the corner. It was a fairly easy run for the fleet Tony Gwynn Jr., who had been on first, and if you have ever seen Gordon run at full speed, it was an absolutely automatic triple, the first of his career, as well as his first RBI.
What happened next might have been even more impressive.
Aaron Miles lifted a fly ball to no more than medium-depth left field. Chris Heisey hauled it in, and Gordon took off. Heisey made a near-perfect, one-hop throw to the plate, an absolute bullet that was right on target. But by the time catcher Ryan Hanigan had it in his mitt and moved to apply the tag, Gordon was sliding across the plate, after which he got up and jogged to the dugout at a speed at which most guys sprint.
It was a nice finish to an evening that otherwise was not so perfect for Gordon, who admitted that his first game at home was a significant occasion.
"I was never nervous at all," he said. "[But] you definitely want to go out and help the team win and get the crowd into it."
Gordon did that with his eighth-inning near-heroics. What led up to that moment for Gordon, though, was a bit of a mixed bag. There was some of the really good, and there was some of the really bad. But there none of the boring, the mundane or the insignificant.
Something tells me that is going to be a career-long, underlying theme with this player, who is in the majors way, way earlier than club officials really wanted him to be.
When Gordon wasn't making a lunging play behind the bag to take a hit away from Brandon Phillips, he was, in a single motion, barehanding a bouncer that caromed off Hiroki Kuroda's glove and firing it to first to rob Joey Votto. When he wasn't diving to his left to snare a line drive an inch off the dirt to break Votto's heart again, well, he was doing things that ultimately cost the Dodgers at least two runs on an evening when they would lose by exactly two runs.
"There is no question that when we brought him here, we knew where we were [getting] with him," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "You're going to live with what you get. He is really here because of injuries, so you have to live with what you get from a kid like this."
Take the second inning, for example.
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After giving up a leadoff single to Chris Heisey, Kuroda (5-8) got the perfectly tailored double-play grounder he needed, a hard smash right to Miles at second. But the excitable Gordon came across the bag prematurely, never paused and was already past it when he gloved Miles' feed. Gordon got the relay to first in time for the out, but Heisey was called safe at second and wound up scoring on a two-out hit by Paul Janish.
"I could have gotten closer to the base," Gordon said. "That was a miscue on my part. It was a close play, but it happened. You have to make sure you get the out."
Take the decisive seventh inning, for another.
On a fairly routine, slow roller to his right by Hanigan, Gordon got a good jump and got to the ball with plenty of time. But Gordon came up to make the throw before he had the ball, and when his body was upright again, the ball still at his feet. Hanigan was safe at first, the turning point in an inning in which Miles would subsequently also commit an error and the Reds would score four unearned runs. That turned a 2-2 tie into an insurmountable deficit for the fourth-place Dodgers (31-37), who fell seven games behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
"You could say that," Gordon said, when asked if he simply got ahead of himself on the play. "But no, that's a ball you should make the play on."
There also was a bad attempt at bunting for a base hit leading off the first inning, a one-hopper back to Arroyo (5-6) on which even the blindingly fast Gordon was easily thrown out at first. But we can excuse that one -- we know Gordon is good at bunting his way on after he laid down that one on Thursday night in Colorado that hugged the line before Rockies catcher Jose Morales could pick it up and throw it into right field when Gordon had long since beaten it out.
While it's true that Gordon is here far ahead of schedule, the consequence of Rafael Furcal's latest injury, you can't help wondering after watching him play a few games whether this is just what he is. Even if the Dodgers had the luxury of waiting until September or even 2012 before summoning him to the bigs, this sometimes erratic, occasionally out-of-control but always electrifying player might well have still been all of those things when that call finally came.
And if that were the case, well, that would have been just fine. Gordon, after all, brings a dimension to the top of the Dodgers' lineup that has long been missing, even on those rare occasions when Furcal has been at his healthiest and free-est.
Gordon may look like one of the bat boys, but there is a charisma to his game that is impossible to ignore. If you look away for a second, you run the risk of missing something significant, even if it's something significantly bad. And for now, for better or worse and maybe even for the long haul, he is here. So we might as well enjoy the show.
"He is electric," Mattingly said. "He is going to be fun to watch, and he is going to hit, too. He has a good swing, and he is going to get better and better."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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