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Gordon eager to test 'new' approach at plate

Royals left fielder hopes to build off strong September in '17
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Royals left fielder Alex Gordon makes no excuses for 2017, which was his worst full offensive season as a Major Leaguer.

"It was a disaster," Gordon said. "No doubt about it."

KANSAS CITY -- Royals left fielder Alex Gordon makes no excuses for 2017, which was his worst full offensive season as a Major Leaguer.

"It was a disaster," Gordon said. "No doubt about it."

Gordon, now entering the third year of a four-year, $72 million deal, slashed .208/.293/.315, with nine home runs and 45 RBIs. For much of the season, he was relegated to the No. 9 spot in the order, making him the highest-paid No. 9 hitter in baseball.

Not that Gordon didn't contribute. He again provided elite defense, and garnered his fifth American League Gold Glove Award.

But offensively, Gordon, 33, admittedly was lost. At least until September.

During a 20-game stretch from Sept. 6 to 27, Gordon suddenly looked like the hitter Royals fans could recognize. He slashed .317/.403/.587, with five doubles and four home runs.

What was the difference? Quite simply, Gordon said, he started going up to the plate with a plan.

"The thing is, last year for me was all about my swing or what I was doing wrong with my stance," he said. "But toward the end of the year, I figured out [the problem] was my approach. I didn't have one. I don't know how I lost it."

Gordon for the past two seasons had become a guess hitter at the plate. He found himself swinging consistently at pitches out of the zone. He admits now, he had absolutely no plan at the plate. And even now he can't understand how he lost his approach.

"I don't know if it was injuries or what," Gordon said. "I was so concerned about my swing and my stance. Constantly made adjustments there. But now I'm trying to get back to a good approach and be back to my old self."

During that September stretch, Gordon began to feel like himself again. He was patient at the plate (eight walks) and searched for a hitter's pitch, not a pitcher's pitch. He used the whole field, rather than just being a dead-pull hitter into the shift.

"I just had an approach," Gordon said. "I was taking pitches I was supposed to take. That's what I've been working on this offseason. I don't know why I didn't have an approach for most of last year."

Gordon to this day credits former Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer (now the Braves' hitting coach) for instilling a patient philosophy at the plate eight years ago. Seitzer and former Royals catcher Mike Macfarlane run the baseball academy Mac-N-Seitz, where Gordon has frequently visited over the years, in suburban Kansas City.

"It's not really about facing pitching this time of year," Gordon said. "It's just about mentality and approach, and not killing myself by swinging at bad pitches. You can work on that in the offseason and don't need to see a lot of live pitching."

Gordon now hopes to take his new (and former) approach with him to Spring Training in two weeks.

"It has been encouraging this offseason," Gordon said. "I can't wait to get to Spring Training and try it out."

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

Kansas City Royals, Alex Gordon