Strange-Gordon ready to compete for Reds shortstop job

Veteran has played mostly second base throughout his career but says shortstop is his natural position

Dee Strange-Gordon arrived at his first spring training on Sunday with the Cincinnati Reds and hasn’t had trouble adapting to new coaches and teammates.

“It’s the same, old thing,” he said Tuesday. “Just playing baseball. It’s like going to a new school, but you know almost everybody.”

Strange-Gordon has played 10 seasons in the big leagues: four with the Los Angeles Dodgers; three with the Miami Marlins; and the last three with the Seattle Mariners. He hit .320 in 35 games against the Reds earlier in his career and .307 in 17 games at Great American Ball Park as a visiting player.

When Strange-Gordon, who signed with the Reds on Feb. 8, heads north with the team, he’ll have that familiarity, and he also has a familiarity with a position the Reds need to fill: shortstop. He hasn’t played there regularly since his first three seasons but will get the chance to win the job this spring.

“Shortstop is my position,” he said. “I played second base because that was the only way I could get in the big leagues at the time with the Dodgers. I found a way to break in and solidify myself as a big leaguer. (Shortstop) has always naturally been my position, and I’m just happy to finally get to play it or get an opportunity to play it.”

Strange-Gordon didn’t sign with the Reds because he knew they could contend this year, which is one reason reliever Sean Doolittle signed with the Reds on the same day earlier this month. For Strange-Gordon, it was all about the chance to earn regular playing time.

“This is more of an opportunity to showcase myself and be able to earn a job,” Strange-Gordon said. “When my back’s against the wall like that, I usually come out on top.”

Strange-Gordon also didn’t pick the Reds because he knows Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin well, though he’s grateful for the tutelage Larkin has offered over the years. The two have worked out together in the offseason in Florida since Strange-Gordon’s rookie year. Larkin praised Strange-Gordon’s abilities last week in an interview after he was hired as an analyst for the Reds’ FOX Sports Ohio broadcast team.

“He’s an outstanding young man,” Larkin said. “He’s a family man and highly motivated. He was in a very tough situation this past season with the Seattle Mariners and didn’t get much of an opportunity to play but had a very positive impact on some of the young players in that organization. And I think coming from that situation, coming into a situation where there’s an open opportunity, I truly believe Dee Gordon could play shortstop at the big-league level. But he also could play a very good second base at the big-league level and a very good centerfield at the big-league level. He’s just that kind of athlete.”

Strange-Gordon won a Gold Glove at second base with the Marlins in 2015. He’s a career .286 hitter who made the All-Star team in 2014 and 2015. He leads all active players in career stolen bases (333) and ranks 127th in baseball history.

Strange-Gordon turns 33 in April and saw his batting average hit a career low (.200) in 33 games with the Mariners, though he hit .275 in 2019, the last full season for Major League Baseball.

To get back to the level he was at in 2017, when he hit .308, Strange-Gordon said he has to avoid injuries. He said “little freak injuries” have affected him the past three seasons. He said he’s healthy now.

“The Mariners let me chill and get help,” he said. “That’s what I focused on.”

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