Dee Gordon expects to be back up to speed for Mariners

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              FILE - This is a Feb. 18, 2019, file photo showing Dee Gordon of the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Gordon is healthy again and back at his normal position. He expects to be back up to speed in his second season with the Mariners. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Injury free and playing second base again, Seattle’s Dee Gordon expects to be back up to speed this season.

It is what he does, after all.

Gordon played the final 4 1/2 months of 2018 with a fractured right big toe, which compromised the essential elements of his game, and he is looking forward to returning to his role as an offensive disruptor in a rebuilt lineup that will be without Robinson Cano, Jean Segura, Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino.

“I know if I am healthy I can play at a high level,” Gordon said. “My game speaks for itself. I’m not a launch-angle guy. I’m not going to hit a million homers. But I’m going to hit the ball hard, play solid defense, steal some bases and score some runs.”

Gordon is a career .289 hitter with 48 triples and 308 stolen bases in eight major league seasons, but the toe injury robbed him of his signature speed and brought about one of his least effective seasons.

He was hitting .353 with 15 stolen bases as the Mariners‘ leadoff hitter when he suffered the injury in a game at Toronto in May, fouling two Marcus Stroman cut fastballs off his front foot in the first inning.

Gordon landed on the disabled list a few days later and returned to the lineup May 21, when doctors assured him he could cause no further damage by playing.

But as he could attest, returning from the injured list is not necessarily returning to health, and the injury did not heal until he was able to spend a month off his feet after the season.

While Gordon finished the year at a respectable .268 with 30 stolen bases, he hit .240 in his final 107 games. He seldom bunted, and he finished with half of his usual number of stolen bases after leading the NL with 64 in 2014 and 60 in 2017 with Miami.

“Dee never wanted out of the lineup (but) you could immediately tell that it affected his jumps, his open-up speed,” said general manager Jerry Dipoto.

There were times last season when Gordon, 30, arrived at the ballpark in a walking boot, played nine innings, then left the park in the boot. He said sitting out was never an option, the same attitude teammate Kyle Seager took about the fractured toe that he played through last year.

“We were winning and I wanted to win,” Gordon said. “They count on me here, and 50 percent me is better than 100 percent of most guys, that’s how I saw it.”

Gordon’s last hit of 2018 was a first-inning triple against Texas on Sept. 29, one of his eight triples last season.

With rest the only cure, Gordon said he stayed in his Seattle home for about a month after the season. He said he seldom went out and wore sandals when he did.

“It’s definitely back to normal,” he said.

Gordon spent last spring training learning center field and played 50 regular-season games there before returning to second base during Cano’s three-month suspension.

“He did what we asked him to do,” Dipoto said. “He was a good teammate.”

Manager Scott Servais said getting Gordon back in his comfort zone is really important.

“The first couple of months last season he was awesome,” Servais said. “He was getting on base. He was creating all kinds of opportunities. But we did throw a lot on his plate last year. Certainly giving him opportunity to get back at his natural position and letting him run with it there.”