Alex Gordon’s season reset lasted a total of two days.
Gordon, who was benched on Tuesday in the midst of a prolonged slump, returned to the lineup on Thursday, starting in left field on the final night of a four-game home-and-home series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
On Tuesday, Royals manager Ned Yost said Gordon would receive “more than a day” off to work on a mechanical adjustment with hitting coach Dale Sveum. The change included a more upright batting stance. That undisclosed period of time ended up being just two games.
“We just wanted him to take a couple days off to work on some things,” Yost said. “Get a little more upright in his stance, to take enough swings where he’s comfortable with the adjustment and then get him back in there.”
Gordon came on in the late innings during a blowout loss on Tuesday. He pinch hit for the pitcher on Wednesday in an 8-5 defeat. In that way, it was not much of a benching. But Yost said that spending two days out of the starting lineup afforded Gordon the luxury of additional swings in the cage.
The decision may appear perplexing on the surface. Gordon entered Thursday with two hits in his last 21 at-bats. His batting average has dipped to .196. His slugging percentage is .293, the lowest in the majors among hitters qualified for the batting title.
But Gordon’s quick return to the lineup comes as rookie Jorge Bonifacio has slipped into a funk of his own. On Thursday, Bonifacio entered the day 3 for 28 with 16 strikeouts in his last eight games. The slump began with a 1-for-11, seven-strikeout stretch in the two games before outfielder Melky Cabrera joined the roster.
Bonifacio has also suffered through a difficult few weeks in right field. He allowed a fly ball to drop during a crucial moment in a 9-8 loss in Boston on July 28. He made a slew of gaffes in a 10-3 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday.
“He’s a young guy,” Yost said of Bonifacio. “He’ll continue to get better (in right field). But it is what it is right now.”
The Royals have long extolled the virtues of Gordon’s defense in left field. He entered Tuesday leading all American League left fielders in Defensive Runs Saved. Among all outfielders in baseball, he trailed only Boston’s Mookie Betts in Ultimate Zone Rating, another advanced metric. His presence offers peace of mind to the coaching staff and confidence to the pitchers. On Thursday, he was back in the lineup.
“He’s made some adjustments we like,” Yost said.