Gordon Leading By Example
It isn't often that veteran leadership comes into play at the A-ball level, but in the case of the Stockton Ports, the team has a few returning players from the Ports' 2008 California League championship team who have given the team some veteran leadership. One of those players is reliever Derrick Gordon, who was with the Ports for all of last season. He has been one of the most consistent performers out of the Stockton bullpen once again this season.
Gordon, a southpaw out of Lamar University, was the A's 26th round pick in the 2006 amateur draft. He was outstanding for Low-A Kane County during his first full professional season in 2007, posting a 2.10 ERA and leading all Midwest League relievers in batting average against (.157). Those numbers jumped in 2008 when Gordon moved to the hitter-friendly California League the next season, however. In 44 regular season appearances (including five starts), he had a 4.93 ERA and 75 strike-outs in 76.2 innings.
Gordon said that he learned a lot from his first tour through the California League.
"[Pitching in the California League] helps you to keep the ball down. They keep you honest," Gordon said.
"In some other leagues, you can get away with throwing the ball up, but this league, you get it up, and it is gone."
One of the main reasons that Gordon's numbers were higher in 2008 was that he struggled against left-handers. He allowed lefties to hit him at a .346 clip, while holding righties to a .216 average. Thus far this year, the numbers against lefties have improved dramatically and, not surprisingly, his overall numbers have improved, as well. In 21.2 innings this season, Gordon has a 3.32 ERA with 19 strike-outs. Overall, he is holding opposing batters to a .207 average. Lefties are hitting only .152 against him.
Gordon says that the improvement can be traced back to a better plan of attack against left-handed hitters.
"My change-up is my best pitch, and last year I kind of eliminated that to lefties. This year, I am throwing my change-up to them and pitching them in," Gordon said.
"I think [the improvement] is just pitch selection."
Despite not having over-powering stuff, Gordon has amassed 168 strike-outs in 175 career innings. In college, he was a strike-out pitcher, as well, striking out 167 batters in 157.2 innings over his final two seasons at Lamar. Gordon doesn't focus on strike-outs, however.
"I'm just attacking the ‘zone. I'm just trying to make quality pitches and I guess they are just swinging and missing," Gordon said.
As a returning player, Gordon has been a leader for the Ports all season. He took a lot from his experience with the 2008 championship squad and he sees similar qualities in his 2009 teammates, even if the results have been slow to come this season.
"Last year was really fun. It was a good group of guys and the staff was great. Just coming to the ballpark everyday, everyone was loose and having fun. I think that this team is headed that way," Gordon said.
April Showers Bring May Flowers
There is no disputing that April is a month that the entire Stockton Ports' roster would like to forget. The team compiled a dismal 5-16 record. On offense, the team hit only .207 with 73 runs scored (less than 3.5 per game). The pitching was a little better, posting an ERA of 4.40.
It has been a different story in May. In 13 games, the team is 6-7 and it is the offense that is carrying the club. As a team, the Ports are batting .292 on the month with 62 runs scored in only 13 games (nearly 4.8 a game).
The offensive leader has been the recently promoted Matt Spencer, who hit .270 with three homers and a 901 OPS in nine games before being promoted to Midland. Infielder Alexander Valdez has also been red-hot. After hitting below .100 in April, Valdez has completely turned it around, hitting .408 with nine RBI and a 1044 OPS in 13 games. Toddric Johnson has a .316 average and an 816 OPS for the month of May, while Michael Richard is also batting .316 and he has an 864 OPS and 10 walks this month. Newcomer Christian Vitters has hit well in his first three games with Stockton, collecting five hits in 13 at-bats.
The pitching staff has hit a bit of a bump in the road. In 13 games, the Ports have a 4.97 ERA. Carlos Hernandez has struggled, posting an 8.31 ERA, although in his last outing, he tossed six hitless innings. Scott Hodsdon has a 7.20 ERA in three May starts, while Justin Murray is 0-2 in May with a 12.27 ERA and Tyson Ross has allowed three earned runs in four innings.
On the plus-side, reliever Justin Friend has a 0.00 ERA in 10.1 innings this month. The Manteca native has allowed only five hits and three walks while striking out eight. Jonathan Hunton has four saves in four chances this month, while Craig Italiano has two wins and 19 strike-outs in 18.1 innings. Newcomers Lance Sewell (2.2 innings) and Leonardo Espinal (1 inning) have yet to allow a run since joining the Stockton bullpen.
Stockton Ports Notebook: Ports Improving
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