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Gordon on playing less: 'I’m a team player'

@FlannyMLB
February 28, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Royals’ organization, coaching staff and players are thrilled to have Alex Gordon back in left field this season. But one of the ongoing discussions behind closed doors is how to maximize his abilities in 2020. And one of the options is to keep a close eye

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Royals’ organization, coaching staff and players are thrilled to have Alex Gordon back in left field this season.

But one of the ongoing discussions behind closed doors is how to maximize his abilities in 2020. And one of the options is to keep a close eye on Gordon’s volume of playing time.

Gordon, 36, is coming off a solid year that included his seventh Gold Glove Award.

But his season was divided. Through the first four months, he slashed .281/.355/.440, compared .230/.321/.291 during the final two months.

New manager Mike Matheny is aware of the falloff and is now tasked with getting the most out of the three-time All-Star.

“We’ll try to watch his volume,” Matheny said. “Obviously, deep respect for him. I’ll always be keeping him in the conversation about this. Everything I know about him is he just wants to do the right thing, so he is going to be honest when he feels it and sees it.

“But I also know he has like a warrior mindset. You can also say that about Salvador Perez. That’s part of why they’re so good. It’s just a matter of continuing to do what’s best in terms of matchups for the team."

While in an ideal world Matheny wouldn't have to worry about Gordon's health and there is infinite playing time for everyone, getting Gordon days off can be duly beneficial: giving him a moment to reset and giving bench pieces a chance to get their reps in.

“Maybe we give a day to someone that they don’t even want but maybe it helps us, and it helps them so we don’t see a lull [in their performance]," the manager said. "Plus, it’s also about how we keep our bench the best it can be -- they have to stay engaged.”

Gordon, who played in 150 games last season, said he hasn’t been approached about the subject of reduced playing time. And he doesn’t believe his drop-off the final two months was because of fatigue.

“It wasn’t that,” Gordon said. “The skipper [Ned Yost] came to me, we were out of the race, and he asked me about sitting some. We wanted to get some younger guys playing time, and I was OK with that. I told the skip I understood.”

Gordon started sitting about once a week over the final six weeks. And he knows that could be the case in 2020.

“I know it might happen,” Gordon said. “If they ask me, I really don’t want days off. But I’m a team player. If they like a matchup better and want to put me on the bench, I’m happy to do it. I’m sure I’ll be on the same page [with Matheny].”

And the decision to perhaps monitor Gordon’s volume of work could have a direct impact on roster construction. The Royals may opt to keep both Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling -- who both are out of options -- to maintain depth for Gordon’s off-days.

Then again, Matheny and his staff are looking hard at versatile bench players who can play both infield and outfield. That list would include Erick Mejia, Matt Reynolds and Ryan McBroom.

Whoever wins the final positional roster spots can expect to see playing time.

“We have some guys who can really help if we can keep them relevant whether it’s defense or pinch-running or pinch-hitting,” Matheny said. “They will play.”

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.