PEORIA, Ariz. -- Three days into the Dee Gordon outfield transition, one thing is clear. The new Mariner has jumped into the challenge headfirst.While manager Scott Servais said most of his expected Opening Day starters will be eased into game action over the next few days due to the short
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Three days into the Dee Gordon outfield transition, one thing is clear. The new Mariner has jumped into the challenge headfirst.
While manager Scott Servais said most of his expected Opening Day starters will be eased into game action over the next few days due to the short preparation time, Gordon will make his Mariners debut in Friday's 12:10 p.m. PT Cactus League opener against the Padres, playing center field for the first time in his professional career.
The two-time National League All-Star second baseman hasn't missed an opportunity yet to work on his new craft. When the Mariners' big boppers took batting practice on Wednesday, Gordon went out to center field to catch balls off the bat of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, taking his place among a group of volunteer "shaggers" from the local community who handle those duties every day in practice.
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"Why wouldn't I?" Gordon said. "This is my job now, and I'm just trying to get better at it as quickly as possible."
Gordon did outfield drills daily in Miami after being acquired by the Mariners in December, but there's a difference in catching balls hit off live bats.
"That's what they're going to hit them off of, so it makes no sense to just get 'em off a machine," he said.
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Gordon made several smooth sliding catches, roamed far and wide, and hauled in a few balls at the wall. He looked every part the center fielder already, but said looks can be deceiving.
"It's my third day being an outfielder in the Major Leagues, so I have to work on all of it," he said. "I'm not there yet. I've got a ways to go. We'll see how it happens."
Servais clearly appreciates Gordon's willingness to adapt as quickly as possible.
"Very much so," Servais said. "At the end of the day, he wants to win. He knows he's got to get to a comfort level in center field for that to happen for us, so he's all in."
Servais took some comfort from seeing Gordon handle things smoothly during batting practice.
"He's so athletic," Servais said. "Obviously the ball comes off Nelson's bat different than it does some other guys. There's just so much more carry on the ball, he backspins it so much. Dee wanted to do that, and I thought it was great. He obviously handled it very well.
"He is going to make the acrobatic play, the diving play. You're going to see him jumping up against the wall, though the wall will always win that one, so we're not big proponents of that. But he's going to make a few of those highlight-reel catches, there's no question about that."
Gordon and the rest of the Mariners will wear special hats Friday honoring the 17 victims from the recent mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., which bears special meaning for the former Marlin.
"Anytime a tragedy strikes close to you, or anywhere honestly, it's sad," said Gordon, who lives about three hours from Parkland in the offseason. "I'm glad we're taking steps to show people we actually care. And hopefully some stuff gets resolved from this last incident and we're able to go forward as a country."
• Team Zunino outscored Team Seager, 21-18, in a situational hitting contest to wrap up Thursday's workout as the final preparation for Friday's opener. One player who didn't take part was Cruz, as the big designated hitter was sent home early after not feeling well in the morning.
• Ariel Miranda, Andrew Moore and Christian Bergman will be the first three pitchers used in Friday's Cactus League game. Mike Leake, Chase De Jong and Casey Lawrence are slated to face the White Sox on Saturday, with Marco Gonzales, Rob Whalen and Chasen Bradford getting the call Sunday against the Dodgers.
Felix Hernandez starts Monday's first road game against the Cubs at Mesa, followed by Max Povse and Ljay Newsome. The Mariners then have a split-squad day on Tuesday, with James Paxton facing the Padres in Peoria and Moore opening against the Royals in Surprise.
• Outfielder Guillermo Heredia is ahead of schedule and has begun taking batting practice, but will be held out of early Cactus League action as he returns from October shoulder surgery. Reliever Tony Zych will also be a little behind most of the relievers to get into games, as he's being treated carefully after dealing with an elbow issue at the end of last season.
• Friday's opener will be radio-only in the Seattle market, but the San Diego broadcast will be available live on MLB.TV.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.