Alex Gordon is making more than one move.
Not only is he joining the Omaha Royals, he'll also be taking up residence in left field.
Gordon has played third base primarily, with a little time at first base, since entering professional baseball. The second overall pick of the 2005 draft was an All-America third baseman at Nebraska.
“We've talked about it as an organization,” Kansas City General Manager Dayton Moore said. “Alex is a very good athlete. I'm not saying he'll never play third (base) again, but he's versatile enough and athletic enough to play a wing outfield spot (left or right). That just fits in better with the group that we have with Billy Butler and Kila (Ka'aihue) and some of the other players in our system going forward who are corner infield players.”
Butler has established himself as the club's first baseman, the same position played by Ka'aihue, who is Omaha's first baseman.
The Royals traded for second baseman Chris Getz in the offseason, displacing one of their top hitters in Alberto Callaspo. Callaspo moved to third base while Gordon missed most of spring training and the early part of the season with a broken thumb.
Gordon rehabbed for seven games in high Class A and for one game in Omaha before Getz went on the big-league disabled list and Gordon was activated. But once Getz was reinstated during the weekend, Gordon didn't start any of the three games after he returned.
Former first-round pick Mike Moustakas, 21, is hitting .395 while playing third base in Class AA. Another former first-round pick, 20-year-old first baseman Eric Hosmer, is hitting .415 in high Class A.
So Gordon will play left field just about every day for Omaha, though Moore said he could play a little at first and third.
“He's played the outfield before — not in professional baseball,” Moore said. “But he's taken some fly balls once in a while in pre-game, tracking them off the bat. And Rusty Kuntz (the organization's outfield coach) feels he'll make the transition very well.”
Gordon was optioned to Class AAA Omaha on Sunday and is expected to report for duty on Tuesday. Moore came to Omaha on Monday to spend a few days observing the Class AAA team.
Moore said Gordon handled the demotion and position change well.
“He's a pro,” Moore said. “Whatever we've got to do to help the team is Alex's mind-set.”
Moore said that sending Gordon back to the minors doesn't mean that the organization has given up hope on his future.
“Not at all,” he said. “Not having Alex Gordon on our baseball team doesn't help us win more games in Kansas City. You'd like to have him on the bench if nothing else, to pinch-hit late in the game. You like that type of presence.
“But what we really need for him is to play every day, get 75 to 100 at-bats, get in a groove, and then we fully expect him to force our hands at some point.”
The minor league player of the year in 2006, Gordon was Kansas City's opening day third baseman in 2007 and was considered a prime contender for rookie of the year but hit .247 with 15 homers and 60 RBIs.
In 2008, he hit .260 and matched his power production (16 homers and 59 RBIs) despite playing 17 fewer games. He also increased his on-base and slugging percentages.
But last year, Gordon injured his hip on opening day, eventually requiring surgery. Then came the thumb injury this year.
“The last year or so, there just hasn't been a lot of natural-ness for him,” Moore said. “He's had a lot of health interruptions. He's going to be fine. We've just got to look at the long term. We need him with us, in Kansas City, producing. It seems like this is the best way to make that happen.”
In some ways, spending time in Omaha will be like spring training for Gordon, who hit .194 in 12 games with Kansas City. He's a .249 career hitter.
Moore said that Gordon, who at 26 is still younger than 15 of the 24 players on the Omaha roster, still has plenty of time to establish himself in the major leagues.
“Everybody's path to success is different,” Moore said. “It's not the script Alex expected, or that we expected, but I know that at the end of the day it's going to be a happy ending. He's going to get to the point where he's a very successful, consistent major league player.”
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