Alex Gordon wasted no time getting back into the swing of things, with a rip on the first major-league pitch he saw since July 8.
Gordon lifted a Justin Verlander offering to medium right field and into the glove of J.D. Martinez. Eric Hosmer stood at third base and took off on the catch, arriving about the time as ball. But the combination of Hosmer’s elusive slide and catcher James McCann’s inability to hang on to the ball gave Gordon an RBI in the second inning.
Gordon was back.
Eight weeks after suffering a strained groin, Gordon was activated from the disabled list and immediately inserted into the lineup. He batted sixth in the Royals’ 6-5 loss to the Tigers and added a pair of hits that both figured into Royals runs.
During an eight-game rehabilitation stint in Omaha, Gordon sought to test his accelerator and breaks as much as his swing.
“The biggest part of my rehab process trusting the legs,” Gordon said after the game. “I think I’ve passed all the tests mentally.”
Perhaps all but one. Gordon saw a ball off the bat of Tyler Collins sail past him and toward the wall, a hit not unlike the one two months ago that Gordon tried to chase down before crashing into the wall and suffering the injury.
This time, Gordon didn’t turn on the jets.
“That play that got over Alex’s head, before the injury we see him make that play 10 out of 10 times,” manager Ned Yost said afterward. “It’s going to be a process.”
Gordon declared himself “a little rusty, but hopefully I can get back to 100 percent. I don’t know if I would say I’m 100 percent, but I feel good out there. Just trying to be smart about it.”
A nice routine pop up might have served Gordon well early, but that didn’t happen. The first fly balls that went his way made him move.
“It felt like opening day for me,” Gordon said. “I was a little nervous. I just wanted one play, an easy pop-up to me, to get it out of the way. But it was like every ball was left and right, and I had to run pretty far for them to try and make a play.”
At the plate, Gordon looked like he hadn’t missed a step. He opened the seventh with a double to the right field gap, moved to third on Salvador Perez’s single and scored on Omar Infante’s grounder to second.
In the eighth, Gordon turned in his best defensive moment, going a long way to make a leaping catch of Collins’ drive before hitting the wall.
In his final plate appearance, Gordon pitched in another base hit that contributed to a run, grounding a two-out single past first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Lorenzo Cain, who opened the frame with a single, scored on Perez’s single.
The Royals actually had a better winning percentage with Gordon out of the lineup and increased their lead in the American League Central from 6 1/2 to 13 games, and that didn’t surprise him.
“Watching it from the bench, even playing better when I was hurt, it was pretty fun to watch,” Gordon said. “It’s been nice to go on my rehab assignment, gain as much lead as they did, and hopefully I can step in and keep the train rolling.”
At Omaha, Gordon hit .429 (12 for 28) and homered in his first game at Werner Park. The Storm Chasers set a four-game attendance record 31,282 during Gordon’s stay and after the signing of former Nebraska teammate Joba Chamberlain.
“I was trying to be as I could about it,” Gordon said. “The one thing I didn’t want to do is affect it more and not be able to come back in September and hopefully October during the fun stuff. I was trying to be as smart as I could about it.”
Gordon said before the game he hadn’t discussed playing time with Yost over the final month. The Royals have a comfortable lead in the American League Central and are bidding to own the AL’s best record and maintain home field advantage throughout the playoffs.