Gordon homers twice, learning CF on the fly

March 9th, 2018

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Mariners have been extremely pleased with the smooth transition of Dee Gordon to center field this spring. What they didn't expect was to get a slugger in the process.

The 5-foot-11, 168-pound speedster ripped a pair of home runs in Friday's 10-7 loss to the Giants, giving him three in 23 at-bats this spring. Yes, these are Cactus League home runs. And no, nobody expects Gordon to continue the trend when games get real in three weeks.

That starts with Gordon, who had one explanation for clearing the fence twice.

"I got lucky," Gordon said. "I got lucky. I got lucky. I got lucky."

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Has he ever gotten lucky twice in one game in his career?

"Never ever in my life," Gordon said. "Not on the streets, a game, backyard, nothing."

It has been a fun run to start his time with Seattle, given the 29-year-old hit just two homers in 653 regular-season at-bats for the Marlins last year and has just 11 in 711 games in his big league career. But that fun goes far beyond his spring power display as he continues drawing rave reviews for his smooth transition to center field.

"This is a great group of guys first off and a great coaching staff," said Gordon, who has led the Majors in stolen bases three of the past four years. "They're making my transition easy. That's all I can ask for. They're making it very easy for me. They're letting me be myself, have fun, smile, joke, anything I want to do.

"I'm learning on the fly. They have a lot of confidence in me, and that's big for me. I'm not a big guy, so for the organization to have so much confidence in me and my game is pretty eye-opening and a pretty awesome feeling."

Manager Scott Servais gave Gordon the option of one more at-bat, but the veteran declined.

"He said, 'I'm good, skip' after the second one," Servais said with a laugh. "How do you not want to hit three? He said, 'I've gotta save 'em.' He knows who he is. He's seeing the ball good, and he does have sneaky power. The ball runs in and he drops the head on it -- that hot zone for left-handed hitters -- and he's certainly got that spot down and in as well."

Paxton making progress

The numbers weren't all that pretty, as gave up four runs on five hits over three-plus innings in Friday's game. But on a warm day when the ball was flying out -- the Mariners hit four home runs -- the big lefty chalked it up as progress.

Paxton lasted just 1 2/3 innings in his previous outing, a rough start against the Rangers, but his long, lanky delivery always takes time to lock in each spring.

"I'm making strides forward," Paxton said. "Today was better than my last time out, for sure, and just continue to get better each time out until the bell rings. It's just sharpness, fastball location, and then the sharpness of my breaking pitches. All that stuff will come along, stuff we'll work on in the next few games and bullpens and all that. We'll iron that stuff out and get ready to go."

Added Servais: "I'd like to see Pax in midseason form, but it's not midseason. He's got time. But the arm strength is coming and he felt better mechanically today. He's going to be just fine."

Injury update

played catch for a third straight day as he continues progressing from his bruised right forearm. He has ramped up his velocity and distance each day, but time is starting to tighten up if he's going to be ready by the start of the regular season in 20 days.

Servais said he'll need to get 2-3 spring starts from Hernandez for that to happen. Hernandez would first need to be cleared to throw off the mound in a bullpen session and then be given a few days before his first Cactus League outing.

, the Mariners' other sidelined starter, met with team doctor Ed Khalfayan on Friday and Servais was hopeful he'd be cleared to start playing catch Saturday for the first time since straining his right lat early in camp.

The fact the Mariners won't need a fifth starter until mid-April due to having four off-days in the first 15 days leads to a possibility of Ramirez opening the season on the 10-day disabled list, then being available when needed.

"If you look at where we need a fifth starter and what point in the season, I still give him an outside chance to be able to get to that spot," Servais said. "We're still four or five weeks away from that point. But he's got to build it up and go from there. He's come along quicker and is in a better spot than I thought he'd be at this point."

Roster battles

With 's status for Opening Day still uncertain as he's just now being cleared to swing in the cage as he returns from surgery on his right hand, is establishing himself as the front runner to land that job if needed with a strong spring.

Vogelbach went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a homer and an RBI on Friday and is hitting .526 (10-for-19) with five doubles and two homers in eight games.

"He's just being aggressive, attacking the ball and it's paying off," Servais said. "He's using the whole field to hit -- left-field line, right-field line. He's in a good spot offensively right now. We have to keep him that way."

, his primary competition as a Rule 5 Draftee from the Yankees, flied out to the warning track in his lone at-bat to end the game and is batting .125 (3-for-24) with one double.

Up next

gets the start in Saturday's 5:05 p.m. PT game against the Reds in Goodyear, with slated to get several innings in relief (watch live on MLB.TV). , one of the bright lights of camp so far, will also be available out of the bullpen.