Kansas City, Mo. Just a couple of days ago, Alex Gordon was laying on the warning track in left field at Kauffman Stadium, unable to move after slamming into the outfield wall while chasing a fly ball.
He was feeling much better by Saturday night.
Gordon returned to the lineup in a victory over the Oakland A’s, and then learned that he was voted by his peers to his first All-Star game. He’ll be joined at Citi Field in New York on July 16 by catcher Salvador Perez, giving the Royals two representatives for the first time in a decade.
“I was like a little kid today getting back in the lineup,” said Gordon, who is hitting .290 with eight homers and 46 RBIs while playing sublime defense in left field.
“I just think it is cool to be selected by the players,” Gordon said. “That’s when you get noticed. You see that other players, your peers, are really respecting how you’re playing.”
The perennial bottom-dwelling Royals, who finally appear to be turning around their franchise, have typically sent just one player to the annual Midsummer Classic. Last year, when they hosted the game at the K, it was designated hitter Billy Butler who got the nod.
The last time they sent two players was in 2003, when relief pitcher Mike MacDougal and first baseman Mike Sweeney were selected for the American League squad.
“Two very deserving guys, and two home-grown guys,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s kind of a gauge of where you are in terms of your organization. When you have two, it’s not your obligatory one pick anymore, and both of these guys were voted on by their peers, which is special.”
Greatness has been expected of Gordon for years, even if it was a long time coming.
The second overall pick in the 2005 draft, the one-time third baseman spent most of his first four seasons fighting to stick in the big leagues. He finally moved to the outfield and flourished, winning Gold Gloves the past two seasons while making massive strides at the plate.
He’s hit better than .290 each of the past three seasons.
“I’ve had my ups and downs, so this is pretty cool,” said Gordon, who got a thumbs up in the Royals clubhouse long after Saturday’s game by none other than George Brett, the Royals’ interim hitting coach who played in 13 All-Star games during his big league career.
“If you asked me about this three years ago, I’d have said no chance, so it’s pretty cool,” Gordon said. “Ned always says it’s something nobody can take away from you, so it’s something we’re going to embrace and have fun with and it’s pretty cool.”
If greatness was expected of Gordon, it came as a pleasant surprise from Perez.
The big, good-natured catcher from Venezuela signed with the Royals as an amateur free agent in 2006, but moved quickly through their farm system. He made his debut two years ago, hitting .331 over the course of 39 games in his first taste of the big leagues.
He’s hitting .302 with four homers and 36 RBIs this season.
“I’m just so happy right now, especially to go with Alex,” said Perez, the first catcher that the Royals have sent to the All-Star game since Darrell Porter in 1980.
Perez’s mother has been visiting but was planning to head back to Venezuela today. But with a big grin, Perez added, “Now she’s going to have to stay with me to go to New York.”
While the Royals were no doubt pleased to have two players headed to Citi Field, there’s still a chance they could land one more on the AL squad. If a pitcher throws on Sunday before the game, he would be replaced on the roster by someone who could be available.
One of the natural choices might be Royals closer Greg Holland, who is 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA this season. He recorded his 20th save on Saturday by striking out the side in the ninth.
“A lot of things can happen between now and the All-Star game, so let’s wait and see what happens,” Yost said. “They’ve got guys that probably made the team that, you know, violate the Sunday rule and they always take an extra pitcher or two and we’ll just see.”
Gordon and Perez certainly believe that Holland is deserving of the nod.
“I think he knows it, and I think everyone in the clubhouse knows it,” Gordon said. “His numbers right now, it’s pretty amazing. I told him, ‘You’re well-deserving as well.’ Hopefully he keeps it up and people take notice, because he’s one of those players who’s pretty amazing.”