Gordon likely to bat third in '08

Gordon likely to bat third in '08

PEORIA, Ariz. -- You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple to figure this out: Alex Gordon looks like he'll be the Royals' No. 3 hitter.

That's where Gordon batted in Friday's Cactus League game against the Seattle Mariners and that's where he's been in eight of the last 11 games.

Of course, there can only be speculation about how the Royals' Opening Day lineup will look because no one truly knows. That's because there's been no ruling on whether right fielder Jose Guillen will start the season on the suspended list.

Let's say, though, that the Guillen suspension is lifted. The lineup could very well look like this against Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander:

1. David DeJesus CF
2. Mark Grudzielanek 2B
3. Alex Gordon 3B
4. Jose Guillen RF
5. Billy Butler DH
6. Ross Gload 1B
7. Mark Teahen LF
8. John Buck C
9. Tony Pena SS

Early on, just after Trey Hillman became the Royals' manager, he reeled off a possible lineup that listed Gordon as the No. 7 hitter. That created a mini-controversy among fans who wondered why a hot young star would be batting so low.

"I was asked to come up with a lineup before Santa Claus came to town," Hillman said wryly.

"And I'm not going to go there. I've covered that too many times."

OK, the idea was that Hillman considered the seventh slot important because there were significant RBI chances and, besides, ending an inning with No. 7 was not ideal because that meant the next inning would start with the two lowest guys in the order.

Now, the Royals might very well have Gordon batting third, the spot held most often (113 times) last year by Mark Teahen. Teahen could be in that No. 7 spot.

No guarantees, of course, and batting orders can change by the day.

"But it's possible, it's possible for [Gordon] to be the No. 3 guy," Hillman said. "Mark's hit there as well. I like what Alex has done. He's probably been a little bit more consistent as far as his plate appearances. We'll continue to evaluate that as we move on."

Gordon, a left-handed hitter, gave the manager something to evaluate in his first at-bat on Friday against the Mariners' left-handed ace, Erik Bedard. On a 2-2 pitch, Gordon floated a two-run homer into the left-center-field seats.

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That was his first home run this spring. Gordon is batting .350 (14-for-40) with eight RBIs. Teahen is hitting .327 (16-for-49) with two homers and 11 RBIs.

After a miserable start last season, Gordon caught fire in June, hitting .285, and knocked in 52 runs in his last 98 games. He usually batted fifth, sixth or seventh.

"It doesn't matter," Gordon said. "Wherever they put me, I'm going to be the same player -- third, seventh, it really doesn't matter.

"You're going to have runners in scoring position more when you're in the three-hole, so you've got to step up a little bit more."

Hillman has preached the merits of on-base percentage in curing the Royals' run-parched ills of last year. That includes patience and taking a base on balls, up to a point.

"Regardless of where Alex is hitting, he needs to stay aggressive first and foremost. He has to have controlled aggression in the strike zone," Hillman said. "If that leads to people pitching around him because they view him as being dangerous, then we've got a No. 4 guy that we like."

That guy would be Guillen.

Hillman cautions that there's a balancing act with OBP. It's a good thing unless it a player lets it diminish his aggressiveness.

"I don't ever want an Alex Gordon to ever be afraid to come out of his shoes on hitting counts," Hillman said.

"Sometimes, guys can take the on-base percentage to the nth degree and miss pitches that they can drive into the gap."

If hitting third is Gordon's future this year, he's there.

"I'm going to take advantage of it and do what I can to stay there and produce there, and help the team win, so I'm happy with that spot," Gordon said.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.