With second chance, Gordon shines

Ex-pitcher is quick study as outfielder and hitter



August 16, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

There was something about Alex Gordon that told the Orioles to take a chance on him. Something that implored them to look beyond the surgery and see the complete player.

The view has been magnificent.

He went undrafted in 1998. He hasn't gone unappreciated this year.

Gordon, 19, was named the organization's Player of the Month for July after hitting .403 with seven homers in the Gulf Coast League. He earned a promotion to rookie-league Bluefield, where he entered the weekend batting .310 with three doubles, three triples, three homers, eight RBIs and 10 runs scored in 10 games.

His story wasn't supposed to stretch this far. It should have ended during his senior year at Roosevelt High in Seattle, when he couldn't pitch after having "Tommy John" surgery on his left elbow. But Gordon had drawn the attention of John Gillette, the Orioles' Northwest scout, who didn't let a ligament transplant scare him off.

Gordon was signed, pointed toward the outfield and allowed to let his offensive abilities take hold.

He went to the instructional league last season, then was kept at extended spring training until joining the Gulf Coast team and hitting .360 with seven doubles, six triples, six homers and a club-leading 34 RBIs in 36 games. He also had a .656 slugging percentage, a .421 on-base percentage and a knack for stealing bases, only being thrown out twice in 14 attempts.

The move to Bluefield hasn't slowed his progress. It's only heightened the Orioles' enthusiasm for the right fielder.

"He's a guy we took a flier on because somebody liked him," said farm director Tom Trebelhorn. "He was kind of behind when we sent him to the instructional league, but, lo and behold, he caught up and did a great job.

"He really works at it. He's a good kid. He really wants to do well. And you've got to have kids like this. You've got to have the Mike Bordicks, the guys who come out of nowhere. If you rely totally on the high draft picks, it becomes an even more expensive game. You've got to have guys who come through and are pleasant developments."

Gordon's future could be at first base, though the Orioles also project former No. 1 pick Rick Elder -- who's hitting .345 at Bluefield -- at that position. Gordon, who's grown to 6 feet 5, 240 pounds, wouldn't mind pitching again. He threw in the low 90s before the surgery, but Trebelhorn said a return to the mound would occur only as a last resort.

"His arm's come back," Trebelhorn said, "but he's demonstrated an ability to be a position player."

Triple-A Rochester

Poised for a September recall, Jerry Hairston had a 16-game hitting streak broken last Monday. His tear included a .348 average (24-for-69) with nine doubles, two triples and 11 RBIs. He had hit in 33 of 37 games going into Friday. Johnny Isom had a nine-game hitting streak broken on Friday. He was hitting .419 in his last 31 at-bats. Howie Clark took a seven-game hitting streak into the weekend. Catcher Julio Vinas hit five homers in 10 games, with 12 RBIs.

Double-A Bowie

Beginning today, the Baysox will play consecutive series at home for the first time since mid-June. Fourteen of their next 17 games are at Prince George's County Stadium. Catcher Cesar Devarez had a 10-game hitting streak ended Saturday, but he wasn't given a full chance to keep it alive. The game was shortened because of rain. Maximo Heredia hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 16 2/3 innings. He's given up only five hits in that span. Ryan Kohlmeier recorded his first save since July 12 on Friday, when he struck out the side in the ninth on 11 pitches. With few opportunities available, Kohlmeier's save was only the third for Bowie during that time. Kohlmeier also had been used on occasion in a set-up role while working on a slider. Carlos Casimiro hit two homers and drove in five runs Tuesday. It was the first two-homer game for a Bowie player this season other than Tim DeCinces. Shortstop Augie Ojeda has committed only five errors in the past three months. Bowie's 17 extra-inning games tie a franchise record. Josh Towers has set a franchise record for hits allowed in a season with 179. He has four starts remaining. Wady Almonte was 11-for-24 on the current road trip heading into yesterday.

Single-A Frederick

Ivanon Coffie was 8-for-20 with two doubles, two triples, a homer and three RBIs in his last four games before yesterday. He was hitting .361 (13-for-36) in his last nine games. Franky Figueroa was batting .333 (39-for-117) with four homers and 24 RBIs in his last 27 games. He had four hits on Tuesday, including a three-run homer. Matt Achilles has won three of his last four starts, allowing only six earned runs in 25 2/3 innings. He's walked five and struck out 22. Joey Hammond was 10-for-20 during a five-game hitting streak. Brian Hughes took a six-game hitting streak into the weekend. He was 35-for-101 in his last 29 games.

Single-A Delmarva

Jancy Andrade is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three starts since being promoted from Bluefield. He's allowed eight hits in 16 innings, walking six and striking out 20. Reliever Gilberto Bello has given up only one earned run in his last 11 appearances spanning 16 1/3 innings. He's part of a Delmarva bullpen that hadn't allowed an earned run in its last 13 2/3 innings before yesterday. John Stephens leads the South Atlantic League with four complete games and 195 strikeouts. In his last 14 starts, he's 8-2 with a 2.29 ERA. Matt Riordan was hitting .327 (16-for-49) with 11 RBIs in his last 11 games. Tim Raines Jr., continuing a recovery from a slow start, was hitting .345 (19-for-55) with 16 runs in his last 12 games. He also had 13 steals in the last 13 games.

Pub Date: 8/16/99

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