Before the Mariners acquired him from Miami this past winter, Gordon had spent his first seven years of his big-league career in the infield.
About three hours before first pitch Tuesday, Dee Gordon emerged from the Mariners dugout at Safeco Field wearing a T-shirt with “ATHLETE” printed in large turquoise letters across the chest and holding an unusual piece of equipment in one hand: an infielder’s glove.
Using that Wilson infielder’s glove, Gordon began to play catch with teammate Andrew Romine in front of the dugout.
“Does that glove feel small?” Romine asked.
“It feels amazing,” Gordon said.
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And away he goes: Dee Gordon, it appears, is on the move again.
In the wake of Robinson Cano’s 80-game suspension, Mariners manager Scott Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto met with Gordon Tuesday afternoon to gauge his interest in shifting from the outfield to second base during Cano’s absence.
There is, of course, familiarity for Gordon in the infield.
Before the Mariners acquired him from Miami this past winter, Gordon had spent his first seven years of his big-league career in the infield, winning a Gold Glove as a second baseman in 2015.
Gordon is familiar, too, with what Cano is going through.
While with Miami in 2016, Gordon was suspended 80 games for violating baseball’s drug policy. He tested positive for performance-enhancing substances exogenous testosterone and clostebol. At the time, he said he didn’t knowingly take PEDs.
He called those three months away from the Marlins one of the most difficult periods of his life.
“I felt detached, but I texted the guys a lot. They would text me,” Gordon said Tuesday. “It’s tough. We wake up every single day no matter if it’s the season or the offseason with something we need to do to be better at baseball. Those three months, you can’t do that. I know it’s going to be tough for (Cano). I’m praying for him. I’m definitely going to give him a call to make sure he’s OK.”
Cano, like Gordon in 2016, is banned from baseball activities with the Mariners during his suspension.
“I’m going to do anything I personally can to make sure he’s OK,” Gordon said. “Your teammates are big for you. You can’t be around them … it sucks. Those three months were terrible, I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve had some low points in my life and that was definitely one of them.
“We’re just going to have to continue to be there for him, to motivate him, to let him know we’ve got him when he comes back and just let him fall in place.”
Until Cano’s return in mid-August, Gordon’s new place with the Mariners could be back at second. Gordon had drawn praise from Servais early in the season for how quickly he had adapted to his new surroundings in his first season in center field. After all the work he’s put in this year to learn to the new position, Gordon said he would prefer to stay in center.
“But,” he added, “my shirt (‘ATHLETE’) says what it says. It’s a gift and a curse.”
Dipoto said he will look outside of the organization to potentially add to the Mariners’ lineup, and Gordon’s versatility makes it easier for Dipoto to cast a wider net in the search of a new player — either a second baseman or an outfielder.
“Like I told you all when I first got here, I’m just here to help this team win ballgames no matter what I got to do,” Gordon said. “This is just part of it, and we’ll see how it goes. …
“Yeah, I’ve played this position, but considering the circumstances it’s definitely — definitely — not how you want it to happen, especially to a great guy like Robbie. I’m just going to try help us for this season, see what we can do and try get to the postseason.”
After warming up with Romine, Gordon fielded a couple dozen groundballs off the bat of infield coach Manny Acta on Tuesday afternoon. He estimated he hadn’t fielded a grounder at second base since last December.
“I’ve put in so many hours (over the years) at second base that I think I’m going to be all right when I go there,” he said.
Gordon, who leads the American League with 15 steals, was in the lineup at center field for Tuesday night’s series opener against Texas, but he will continue to work with Acta for the next few days to get re-acclimated at second.
“We don’t want to rush into it,” Dipoto said. “He’s such a good athlete, it could be two or three days. It could be that we just decide to keep him in center field if that makes much more sense based on his assessment. We’ll find out.”