When Alex Gordon took his last stride before reaching for a ball hit over his head on Wednesday, he heard a pop. Then he felt the pain.
“I pushed my leg. That’s when I felt the pop,” Gordon said. “I tried to stay on my feet. That’s when you saw my leg give out. That’s when I fell to the ground and felt the sharp pain.”
In that moment, the Royals lost the player Jarrod Dyson calls “the guy who holds everybody together. He’s like dad in the clubhouse.”
The Royals got the injury report Thursday before their 8-3 sweep-clinching victory over the Rays. Gordon has a plus-two groin strain and is expected to miss eight weeks.
Whether that’s eight weeks of healing, then a phase-in period, or eight weeks until full-go, nobody knows.
But the Royals will be without Gordon, voted as an All-Star Game starter for the first time, until September.
“The news was obviously tough,” Gordon said. “My goal now is to do the rehab as best I can and come back as quickly as possible.”
Gordon managed to beat the recovery timetable for his offseason wrist surgery, but every injury is different.
Gordon was placed on the 15-day disabled list, and his roster spot was taken by left-handed pitcher Brandon Finnegan, who was recalled from Class AAA Omaha. The team also reinstated right-handed pitcher Yordano Ventura from the disabled list and optioned right-handed pitcher Aaron Brooks to Omaha.
The Royals are losing one of the top players and a fan favorite who was having one of his hottest stretches of the season. In his last five games, Gordon went nine for 16 (.563) with two home runs and seven RBIs. He had raised his batting average on the season to .279 and was on a power kick with 11 home runs.
Gordon doesn’t know if he’ll travel to Cincinnati for the All-Star Game next week — the Yankees’ Brett Gardner was selected to take his roster spot, and the Orioles’ Adam Jones will get the start — but Gordon said he’ll travel with the Royals after the All-Star break when he gets medical clearance.
Dyson has filled in since the injury. He turned a double play in the first inning he played on Wednesday and made a spectacular catch that he turned into a double play in first inning on Thursday.
Gordon said the Royals are in good hands with Dyson, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Rios and Paulo Orlando in the outfield.
“He’s been the best backup outfielder in baseball the last couple of years, and he could start for most teams,” Gordon said of Dyson.
Royals manager Ned Yost said he had a horrible night’s sleep thinking about the injury.
“It runs deep, but you have to find ways to get through it,” Yost said. “The team has to pick each other up. We feel like we have to guys who can do that.”
Watching Thursday’s game from Kauffman Stadium, Gordon said his spirits were lifted by the support he received in the clubhouse and from the fans.
“The last two games have been pretty overwhelming,” Gordon said. “Watching the game on TV, see the signs wishing me the best, getting texts from friends and family. I can’t thank everybody enough.”