Dyson's defense gives Royals upward mobility
In Gordon's absence, center fielder shifts to left ... and delivers
If anybody can withstand the loss of an All-Star/Gold Glove outfielder, it could be the Kansas City Royals. No, nobody has another Alex Gordon on the bench in case of emergency. Gordon, elected by the fans as an American League starter for the 2015 All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile, has won four straight Gold Gloves.
Gordon's combination of offensive production and defensive prowess is extremely is rare to the point of being singular. Now, he is out for eight weeks with a serious left groin strain.
But if there aren't any others like Gordon populating Kansas City's roster, neither is the cupboard bare in the spare outfielder department.
The Royals will go with a platoon in left field, with left-handed-hitting Jarrod Dyson getting the larger portion of playing time and Paulo Orlando starting against left-handed pitchers.
Dyson is an accomplished defensive outfielder. Last year, as the Royals made their run to the World Series, they increasingly went to Dyson as part of a defensive replacement for right fielder Nori Aoki, frequently putting Dyson in center and moving Lorenzo Cain to right.
Manager Ned Yost said at the time that he liked the additional speed, particularly in the expansive outfield at Kauffman Stadium. Dyson's speed is a matter of record. He has been an extraordinarily successful basestealer, with 130 steals in 151 attempts in the Majors, a success rate of 86.1 percent.
Orlando is a 29-year-old rookie with good speed and a unique background. He is Brazilian, from Sao Paulo. Originally signed by the White Sox, Orlando has been playing professional baseball in North America for 10 years. His largest career moment to date came in the ninth inning Tuesday against Tampa Bay when he hit a walk-off grand slam.
When Gordon was injured the next night, it was stiff-upper-lip time in Kansas City.
"We'll just go and figure it out," Yost said. "Right now, Dyson and Paulo can handle it. Dyson will step up. Paulo will step up. [Alex] Rios will step up. It is what it is. We just have to find ways to deal with it. Nothing we can do about it. It could have been a lot worse. It didn't require surgery. If it was higher up in the groin, it would have, but that was not the case."
It turned out the "step up" line was more than just the usual rhetoric. Dyson delivered an inside the park home run in Wednesday night's game and threw out a runner at the plate to complete a double play.
Thursday, in the Royals' 8-3 victory that completed a four-game sweep of the Rays, Dyson encored with what Yost said was the best play he has seen all season. And when you spend the season watching Kansas City's defensive wizardry, that is saying as much as can be said on the topic of great plays. With Tampa Bay's John Jaso on first, Grady Sizemore sent a deep drive to left field, seemingly over the head and beyond the reach of Dyson. But Dyson raced back and, with his back to the infield, made the catch over his shoulder. Dyson then made a perfect throw to shortstop Alcides Escobar, whose relay to first baseman Eric Hosmer doubled up Jaso.
"The play in the first inning, that kind of sums up how it's going right now," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We square a ball up, and Dyson makes an incredible play on it and we get doubled up."
When Yost said Dyson's play was the best he had seen all season, he wasn't kidding around.
"I meant it literally," Yost said. "We've seen great plays. We've got a defensive team, but I asked my coaches, 'Have you seen a better defensive play this year?' Because the degree of difficulty on that is huge. To be able to catch the ball with your head this way running full speed at the wall, one step from the wall, and catch it like that ... The degree of difficulty on a play like that is astronomical."
In all likelihood, there will not be an endless parade of walk-off grand slams and once-in-a-season catches by Kansas City left fielders until Gordon returns. But the recent performances, particularly the plays by Dyson, indicate that the Royals are not going to fall into anything resembling a defensive slump on the left side of their outfield.
Nobody literally replaces a player of Gordon's stature. But the Kansas City Royals have replacements who will keep Gordon's injury from becoming anything like a calamity.