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New father Gordon: 'My tenacity is back'

Second baseman ready to compete with youngsters for starting spot
@gregjohnsmlb
February 21, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dee Gordon understands the youth movement at home. He and his wife just welcomed their first child, a baby girl named Demi, on Tuesday back in Orlando, Fla. But as Gordon arrived at Mariners camp on Friday, the 31-year-old quickly indicated he’s not quite as ready to

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dee Gordon understands the youth movement at home. He and his wife just welcomed their first child, a baby girl named Demi, on Tuesday back in Orlando, Fla. But as Gordon arrived at Mariners camp on Friday, the 31-year-old quickly indicated he’s not quite as ready to embrace the youth movement on his baseball team.

Gordon knows the Mariners are going young and have earmarked 24-year-old Shed Long, one of Gordon’s offseason workout partners in Florida, as the starter at second base this season. But that doesn’t mean he’s just going to hand the job to his friend without a competition.

“We’re grown men now. He’s got to play,” Gordon said. “He’s my guy. Shed stays in my house [at times in the offseason]. But he's still got to play.”

Gordon was a National League All-Star in 2014 with the Dodgers and again in ’15 with the Marlins, but his production slipped the past two seasons in Seattle -- he’s hit .271 with just a .295 on-base percentage. With Gordon entering the final year of a contract that pays him $13.5 million this year, the Mariners have made it clear that Long will get a shot to show what he can do at second, while Gordon will fill in behind him and young shortstop J.P. Crawford.

"I’ve never walked in a locker room where young guys have positions," Gordon said. "They need to take advantage of this and be grateful for it. Because this doesn’t happen very often for young players who aren't proven."

Gordon isn’t ready to concede his starting spot without a fight. And he’s eager to show he’s more like the old Dee Gordon, rather than an older Dee Gordon, this spring.

“I’m the best player in the locker room,” Gordon said. “I’m the best player when I walk on the field. Y’all ain’t seen it. I’ve been hurt. I’ll just get ready and you’ll see something fun.”

His approach this spring?

“Just do it,” Gordon said. “Just buckle it in. I lost myself the last few years, but my tenacity is back.”

His baby girl arriving in his life has only fueled a resolve he said began returning late last season.

“For me, it’s like, I told you about my tenacity. I was losing it because honestly I got bored with losing,” he said. “When I was down with the Marlins we didn’t win, came here, we didn’t win, I got bored with losing so I lost my tenacity, I was just playing baseball. Even before she came, before even last year ended, I started working toward this year.”

Gordon, who played basketball in high school before switching to a full-time baseball focus, is drawing on Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard for motivation.

“I’ve been watching Dame Lillard a lot,” he said. “Trash team, but he’s trying to put them on his back every night. That’s what I usually do. That’s what I did when I helped Giancarlo [Stanton] win MVP [in Miami]. I had to get that back.”

Gordon also wanted to make it clear he wasn’t blaming anyone else for his situation the past two seasons.

“It’s on me,” he said. “Anything that ever happened these few years has been on me. And it takes a strong man to look in the mirror and tell yourself that. That’s how I feel. But it ain’t going to be on me no more. Last year, I was just floating through the end of last year, just to get into the offseason. I wasn’t in the greatest spot mentally. Now I’ve got that little girl, there’s nothing nobody can do to me. Let’s go play.”

After ending his interview, Gordon returned to make sure reporters understood exactly what he meant by invoking Lillard and his comments about putting the team on his back.

“What I mean about Dame is, if I’m going to be here, I’m going to be the best player here,” he said. “I’m going to make sure of that. Every single day, every single out, I’m not taking a pitch off. I’m not taking an at-bat off. I’m not taking a stolen base off, I’m not taking a run off. That’s it.”

Manager Scott Servais will be the one trying to juggle Gordon’s playing time with the up-and-coming youngsters. He knows that balancing act won’t be easy, but appreciates Gordon’s determination and ability to show the rookies the right way to play and compete.

“Dee is very driven,” Servais said. “Dee has been told his whole life that he can’t do things or accomplish things. Like a lot of guys in that room, he’s always proven them wrong. I know he’s worked very hard this offseason.

“The biggest thing for Dee is that he’s got to stay healthy. We are going to ask that he be a little more versatile and that he move around the field a little bit more. He’s open to that. He wants to play. Bottom line, he wants to play. He wants to win. He’s been a very good teammate with these young guys.”

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.