Nolan Gorman wants to set the record straight: He was not really kidding.
In part thanks to his Instagram story following the Cardinals’ acquisition of third baseman Nolan Arenado -- “Does anyone know where Dustin Pedroia is and is he available for lessons on how to play second base?” Gorman wrote -- the Cardinals’ No. 3 prospect did in fact connect with the former Red Sox MVP second baseman over text.
Just two Arizona guys, cutting it up, talking shop about second base.
“It was never really a joke,” Gorman said Tuesday. “… Simple stuff. It's hard to just text through the phone and really dive into a lot of things, but more so just having a lot of time at second base, you don't have to rush anything, and making sure on double plays you're getting that first out and protecting yourself from that runner coming. Just simple things, little things that made him a great player.”
There are certainly few better players for Gorman to learn from than Pedroia, a four-time Gold Glover at second and two-time World Series champion who called it a career in February. It was the first step in making the transition from third to second. Then it came to actually playing the position.
That occurred on Tuesday, when the natural third baseman played second in a simulated game for the first time this spring, lining up alongside Arenado on the opposite side of the infield. Gorman got some of the first boxes checked off -- he turned a double play started by Arenado, caught a popup in the dirt and played a handful of innings at what the club tried to create as close to full-speed game action as possible for starter Jack Flaherty.
“I'm a baseball guy, so I study everything,” Gorman said. “But I think the biggest thing is just knowing cuts and relays and [runners on] first and third defenses and different plays that we have going on. And that's the only thing I've got to really understand now, where to be and when to be there.”
And even if he needs more resources, the Cardinals are bursting with them. The elder Nolan -- Arenado -- is an eight-time Gold Glover at third, where Gorman, the 19th overall Draft pick in 2018, initially mapped out his career. Gorman has picked Arenado's brain and worked especially closely with the organization’s infield mastermind, José Oquendo.
Gorman has still been taking some reps at third this spring, appearing there in Grapefruit League games at times in relief of Arenado and more than holding his own. But his focus is expediting his path to the big leagues -- “I've got gloves for everything,” he said -- whether it’s at second, or via even trials in the outfield.
“I mean, you've got Arenado coming in at third base. He's got eight Gold Gloves. He's a stud over there and he hits for power, hits for average -- everything,” Gorman said. “You got to be able to adjust, and I'm not up there with any sort of name in the big leagues, so I want to help the team win any way I can. … If [second base] is going to help the big squad win, that's what I'm willing to do, and just put in extra work and make sure I'm dialed in there.”
Both Arenado and Gorman were early arrivals to camp in February, golf partners and now, the Cardinals hope, infield stalwarts. Arenado is signed through 2027 (with opt-outs after ’21 and ’22) and Gorman is still trying to make the club, though likely not until the later portion of this year, if at all, before 2022. The Cardinals are set with Tommy Edman and Matt Carpenter at second in 2021.
Soon, though, Arenado zipping a throw to Gorman to turn two could become a nightly occurrence.
“Egoless” was the word manager Mike Shildt used when asked about Gorman’s approach earlier this spring. The skipper called the prospect following the acquisition of Arenado to take his temperature. The only thing impressing the Cardinals more than Gorman’s bat -- his calling card -- and his capability of learning second is his attitude.
“He's really, really honest and sincere about saying, ‘You know what, I'll be fine. I'll figure out another path. And I will figure it out, second base as part of that path, then let's get to work,’” Shildt recalled on Feb. 21. “You know, actions do speak louder than words.”
Next up for Gorman this spring could be taking reps at second in Grapefruit League action, though the Cards are being patient with him there. The left-handed-hitting 20-year-old has been hitting balls on the screws through 17 exhibition at-bats, his manager said, though he holds just two hits, one being a double, and an RBI.
There’s no lack of confidence in the bat, though, as Gorman has hit at any level he’s reached. Instead, the Cardinals are monitoring -- and pleased with -- how he can evolve with the glove, specifically, given his strong arm.
Tuesday was one of the first trials. And Gorman has no shortage of resources -- a former MVP in Pedroia included -- to help improve upon what it was: a starting point.
“I'm glad he was letting me reach out to him,” Gorman said. “Just a good guy to have in your pocket.”