Homecoming a success for Gordon

ROUND ROCK, TX - Making his first start in his hometown of Round Rock since 1997, Brian Gordon tossed 5.2 shutout innings amid an enthusiastic and supportive crowd at Dell Diamond on Sunday night. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the pitcher after the game.

On June 28, Brian Gordon took the field as a starting pitcher for the first time since 1997.

At that time, Gordon starred as a standout pitcher and outfielder for the Round Rock High School baseball team, helping lead them to a 5A state championship in his senior year of 1997.

The then-upstart Arizona Diamondbacks liked Gordon enough to select him in the 7th round of the 1997 MLB Draft – as an outfielder.

Although Gordon did have some success in 10 minor league seasons as a position player – he hit 118 home runs with a career .274 batting average – the Houston Astros elected to convert the former high school ace into a full-time pitcher.

Gordon played the 2006 season in the outfield with the hometown Round Rock Express, but he moved down to Double-A Corpus Christi to begin pitching. The right-hander worked out of the bullpen with the Hooks and posted a 5-1 record with a 2.88 ERA in 50 innings. He earned a late-season promotion to Triple-A Round Rock, where he surrendered six earned runs in 11 innings.

Despite his successes in just one year as a pitcher, the Astros chose to release Gordon after one appearance in 2008. He was quickly snatched up by the Rangers, who assigned him to Double-A Frisco.

The 28-year-old went on an immediate tear with the RoughRiders, tossing 22 inning of relief without allowing a single earned run. He surrendered only nine hits, walked four, and struck out 18.

Gordon was then promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma, where he began by working out of the bullpen. He has since been inserted into the starting rotation.

The hurler returned home to face his former club, the Round Rock Express, as a starting pitcher on Sunday evening.

In front of a supportive Dell Diamond crowd of 9,506 – including many of Gordon's family members – he tossed 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball. Gordon scattered five hits, walked one, and struck out three. He received a standing ovation from the hometown faithful as he exited with a 5-0 lead.

Gordon was able to succeed by working his fastball, which sat between 88-91 mph, in on the hands of hitters. Though he isn't an overpowering pitcher, he did an excellent job of hitting his spots and forcing weak contact.

The righty also flashed an excellent slow curveball in the second, third, and fourth innings. He threw nine curveballs ranging from 67-70 mph and was able to record all three of his strikeouts [two swinging, one looking] on the pitch. Gordon also mixed in a handful of changeups and sliders throughout his start.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with Gordon after Sunday night's game.

Jason Cole: First off, tell me what it feels like to come back to your hometown and throw a gem.

Brian Gordon: It's special. It really is. There was a lot of family that hadn't seen me pitch since high school. To be able to bring that home to them, it was sweet. The bullpen is a little unpredictable. It was kind of a hope – am I available that night? The game dictates a lot. I was having to leave tickets and they were having to travel quite a bit every night. The fact that I got a nice start here – they kind of knew what night to show up and they got to see a pretty good game.

It was all smiles for Gordon on Sunday.
Cole: You didn't do any starting last season, did you?

Gordon: No, no starting. I just started a couple of weeks ago. Our rotation was kind of messed up a little bit because a couple of guys went down with the Rangers, so we had a couple of guys go up there. We needed a spot start and they asked me if I would be willing to do it. I was tickled to hear that.

Cole: You've now pitched pretty well in your last two starts. Do you expect to keep starting here?

Gordon: I'm hoping so. It's something I certainly love to do and as long as the body holds up – it's adjusting well. I just want to keep rolling, keep working out, and who knows.

Cole: What is that adjustment like? What went in to the transition from reliever to starter?

Gordon: I would have to say a lot of it is mental. Just being prepared for it and knowing what to expect. That was the toughest part at first. The first two outings, I was trying to develop a routine – trying to figure out the science behind it. The strategy, it's a little bit different. Coming out of the ‘pen, the starter is supposed to establish strikes. Then the bullpen comes in offspeeding you. You need to get outs. Here, you have got to establish your fastball early and be aggressive with it. Hopefully that will take you along in the game, trying to get those guys to put those balls in play early.

Cole: When was the last time you had started a game before this year?

Gordon: Round Rock High School. That was in '97.

Cole: Tell me what you thought about your start tonight.

Gordon: I was very pleased with the start. I went out there and threw strikes. I had command of all my pitches and that was key, especially with all the excitement and all the anxiety going through. I felt like the body was just a little amped up. To be able to command all my pitches, it was huge. I'm big on getting after those hitters and trying to get them to put the ball in play. I was able to do that tonight.

Cole: When I saw you in Frisco, your fastball was generally at 88 out of the bullpen and you were up around 90-91 quite a bit tonight. Is that because you were a little bit amped up for tonight's start?

Gordon: I don't know, it could be. It very well could be. I'm definitely throwing a lot more and I'm getting loose quick. The longer I throw – they say your arm gets stronger as you go. The crowd got into it, playing at home – I'm sure that had a lot to do with it. But yeah, that's not my game. 90-91, that's certainly not going to blow anybody away. I think as long as I keep hitting my spots, things will be good.

Cole: Tonight in the first inning, you weren't able to get your first couple of curveballs over the plate. After that, it seemed like every curveball you threw was great.

Gordon: Yeah, that was the big thing. One of the toughest things when you've got a lot of anxiety is getting those offspeed pitches because it's a feel. It's a feel pitch. When the body is amped up, you tend to leave pitches up. The more I got out there and the more I threw, I was able to calm down.

Cole: How difficult was that, when you started pitching again, to find your feel of the curveball, the slider, and the changeup?

Gordon: It definitely was. It has been a lot of work. I certainly had a lot of help along the way. Just people stepping up and offering their services. I'm grateful for every one of them.

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