Gordon's game matches hype

Gordon's game matches hype

Memo: To Alex Gordon.

"Don't read this story and if you should, do not believe it." -- Your pal and teammate, Reggie Sanders

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Alex Gordon has yet to play a game in the Major Leagues, but don't be surprised if his face will soon appear on Wheaties boxes, Sports Illustrated covers and nearly every billboard in Kansas City.

The 39-year-old Sanders would prefer Gordon skip over the preceeding paragraph. He wants to hide the hype from Gordon.

"He definitely has the talent," Sanders said. "I think he has the potential to be a fine Scott Rolen from the left side. As young players, try not to buy into what everybody says about you. That's the trick. You've still got to work. This game humbles you so fast."

Manager Buddy Bell has named Gordon his Opening Day third baseman and will likely bat him fifth.

"He certainly deserves it," Bell said. "I think all along we felt like he was ready. There's a heckuva lot of things he still has to go through. He's going to go through slumps. There's going to be a lot of adversity. This game is so much faster than anything he's ever seen before.

"We think Alex Gordon is going to be a good player because he's a tough kid and very talented. I don't think there's a whole lot of things that affect the kid. I think that's one reason why he is such a good player at this point so early in his career."

The club opened up a spot this year for Gordon by moving Mark Teahen, the Royals 2006 Player of the Year, from third base to the outfield. The consensus is Gordon, 23, is ready for the Majors after just one year of apprenticeship in the Minors. But what a year it was.

Gordon had an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of 1.015 last year while collecting 69 extra-base hits for Double-A Wichita. He was selected as the Texas League Player of the Year and became the first player to win Baseball America's College Player of the Year and Minor League Player of the Year in back-to-back years. Gordon hit .372 with 19 home runs and 66 RBIs as a junior at Nebraska in 2005.

"I don't really mind it," Gordon said of the phenom label. "It's fine. I guess it comes with the success. I think not only me, but we've got a lot of young phenoms in this organization that are coming up and are going to help the team out a lot."

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For visiting national media, stopping by Gordon's cubicle is a Spring Training must. He may be the most interviewed player in the Royals' clubhouse.

"I don't know about that, but I get my fair share," Gordon said. "It's all right. It's a good problem to have."

It comes with the territory of being branded the Royals' next franchise player. The first, of course, was Hall of Famer George Brett, who like Gordon played third and hit left-handed.

"Gordon can be a franchise-type player," said Brett, a Royals vice president who was in uniform in Spring Training. "He's got a chance to be a pretty good player -- offensively, defensively, base running and everything else that you want to characterize a third baseman. I think he's as good as there is right now in the game. He's a pretty special kid."

Brett said Gordon's swing is not similar to his.

"He's got power. He's strong. I'm not," Brett said. "At 22 years old, I was learning how to pull the ball, and he already knows how to pull the ball. He hits with brute strength. I had to hit with pure mechanics. He's got good mechanics, but he can hit with brute strength and, obviously, I don't have that. Through proper mechanics I developed strength. I hit home runs because I had good mechanics. He doesn't even need good mechanics to hit home runs. He's very disciplined at the plate. Ball away, he'll hit it to left. Ball in, he'll pull it with power."

Gordon grew up in Lincoln, Neb., and was a two-time Nebraska High School Player of the Year, hitting .483 with 25 home runs and 112 RBIs at Southeast High. His grandfather, Charlie, was a longtime coach at Lincoln Southeast before Alex arrived.

Gordon, however, went undrafted out of high school because of his allegiance to the Cornhuskers, where his father Mike played.

"Me and my family made it clear that I was going to college," Gordon said. "Scouts got kind of scared of that, so that is why I didn't get drafted."

Three years later, with a .353 career average at Nebraska, the Royals selected him second overall in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

Gordon has always been a good hitter since he started playing tee ball.

"I don't like to brag or anything, but I've done OK I guess," he said. "I've always been able to hit. I take that from coaches I've worked with."

More than mechanics, there is also the mental game going on between pitcher and batter.

"In my mind, when I go up to the plate I'm thinking that I'm a great hitter and I'm going to get a hit and this pitcher is not going to get me out," Gordon said. "That is just my mentality when I go up there: that I'm a great hitter.

"I hate failing. So if I go out there and have an 0-for-4 day, I'm going to come in and get in the cages and try to fix it anyway that I can."

Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.