Gordon won't stay at SS, will keep utility role

September 13th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins will likely be in the market for a shortstop for the 2022 season. But even as Nick Gordon earned his first Major League start at short on Saturday, manager Rocco Baldelli indicated that the rookie likely won't be in the mix for more consistent starts at the position moving forward.

"I don't think the goal is to send him out at shortstop several times a week every week from here on out," Baldelli said. "There may be a week where he is, but I still want to see him move around the field."

That's tough news for the 25-year-old Gordon, who played shortstop for most of his Minor League career and was thrilled to get back to the position on Saturday. He hasn't gotten those opportunities at the Major League level, where Baldelli and his staff have focused on developing Gordon's multi-positional skills, which could be key to his career.

Still, Gordon relishes these opportunities when they arise.

"I was kind of like, 'I definitely can’t wait to get this feeling again,'" Gordon said. "To go out there, just when I got my first ground ball in warmups, I looked at the fans, just thought, 'Oh man, this is definitely what I dreamed of. Just going out there and playing my position.'"

Considering Gordon's hit-first skillset hasn't translated smoothly to the big league level in 2021 -- with a .236/.294/.338 slash line through his first 57 games -- his roster spot could be more impactful in a utility role until he shows more, especially considering the relative lack of versatility the Twins have elsewhere on the team.

The Twins moved Gordon to center field for the first time as a professional earlier this season and have played him there for 33 games, his most at any position. They've also been fine with him at second base. And more recently, they've been giving him looks in left field, third base and shortstop in the hopes of fostering a super-utility presence that they haven't had in quite some time.

Marwin Gonzalez played three infield positions and the corner-outfield spots and Ehire Adrianza played all four infield positions, but Gordon's ability to fill in at both premier defensive spots -- center field and shortstop -- isn't something that the Twins have had on their roster in the recent past.

"He has enough athleticism, baseball sense, desire to move around the field and work," Baldelli said. "He is a good worker in many, many different ways. You combine all these things and you go, ‘Well, he can play second base. He’s got good instincts out on the field. He can run. Let’s see what the outfield looks like.’ It’s not just that simple, but then he goes out there every day and puts in many, many hours of work."

Gordon will be out of Minor League options next year, meaning that he'll need to break camp with the team and finish his needed development this season in preparation of holding a roster spot throughout the 2022 season. It's looking like that likely won't be as the full-time shortstop -- and soon, top prospects Royce Lewis and Austin Martin will graduate from the high Minors.

"My dad’s always told me, 'Shortstop is the toughest position on the field. If you can play there, you can play anywhere,'" Gordon said.

The Twins will be counting on that.

Twins have plane issues on way to New York
The Twins originally planned to arrive at their hotel in New York around 9:45 p.m. ET on Monday night, but they had to change planes due to a mechanical issue following Sunday's series finale against the Royals at Target Field and didn't make it to the hotel until 1:30 a.m. ET as a result.

The team could have used some smoother logistics for its final makeup game of the year, its second in two weeks, but it is focused on weathering this stretch of its schedule however it can, which will also include a seven-inning doubleheader against Cleveland on Tuesday upon its return to Minneapolis.

"In all honesty, you kind of have to embrace everything that comes your way when you have these things come up," Baldelli said. "You hope not to have one-day makeup trips scheduled on several of your off-days over the course of a season. I think that's very obvious. But when they do come up, there's no really positive thing or no use in complaining about it in any way. We do what we have to do and we show up and we go at it."