On Monday afternoon, midway through the first game of the Royals season, Alex Gordon sidled up to manager Ned Yost. The topic was his surgically-repaired right wrist.
“Look, if my wrist feels like this, I don’t need any days off,” Gordon told Yost.
Yost thanked him for the insight, but informed his two-time All-Star outfielder there were still games on the bench in his future. The first will probably arrive on Thursday, a day game after Wednesday night’s game. Paulo Orlando, the 29-year-old Brazilian, is expected to make his major-league debut in Gordon’s place.
In explaining his rationale the switch, Yost revealed a window in his plan to integrate Gordon back into the lineup while not taxing his wrist. For at least the first month of the season, Yost explained, he intends “to be extra cautious with him early.”
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“You just don’t want to dig a hole for him that’s going to take three or four days to dig out,” Yost said.
This means Gordon will sit often during day games after night games, especially against left-handed pitchers. Southpaw John Danks starts for Chicago on Thursday. This also explains why Orlando, a right-handed hitter, will start over Jarrod Dyson, a left-handed batter with a career .528 on-base plus slugging percentage against lefties.
Yost believes Gordon can handle the strain of playing in back-to-back days, but only as long as he has 24 hours to recover. The 12-hour turnaround necessary for day games worries Yost. Gordon did not appear in the clubhouse when it was open to reporters before Wednesday’s game, and was not available for comment.
Gordon went one for four in the season opener. He notched a two-run single for his lone hit. He also reached base when White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija hit him with a pitch.
“He looks fine,” Yost said. “He’s just got to get his timing and everything down. He’s getting better and better with it all the time. My only focus is the strength of that wrist, and not getting in too big a hole where he’s got to sit two or three days.”
Yost referenced a game during the middle of spring training that gave him pause. On March 31, the Royals faced the Padres at night. Gordon ripped a single early on. But he soon remarked to Yost and the trainers that his wrist was “hurting,” Yost said. Gordon received three days off.
“He was actually ready to play the third day,” Yost said. “But we wanted to double make sure and test it. He felt pretty good, and he played the day after that.”
Gordon received only 35 big-league at-bats during the spring. When camp began, he expected to miss a week of Cactus League games. He ended up sitting out two. He hit .200 with only one extra-base hit.
The slow start prompted Yost to reconsider his lineup. He shifted Gordon out of the No. 2 spot and inserted third baseman Mike Moustakas.
So for the next few weeks, at least, the Royals will keep a close eye on Gordon’s condition. He has vowed to be honest with them about his wrist. Yost appreciates that sentiment, but he knows it only goes so far.
“Sometimes you’ve got guys like that who will play through anything,” Yost said. “So you’ve got to make the determination for them.”