Nick Gordon ready to continue impressive climb with Lookouts

Nick Gordon ready to continue impressive climb with Lookouts

April 5th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - Professional

LOOKOUTS PREVAIL

Nick Gordon homered in his first at-bat as the Chattanooga Lookouts defeated Chattanooga State 3-0 Tuesday night in the annual exhibition game at AT&T Field. Gordon and Travis Harrison drove in runs in the third inning to cap the scoring. Paul Clemens, Ryan Eades, Luke Bard, Nick Burdi and John Curtiss combined to strike out 13 batters for the Lookouts. Zack Wilcox got the start for the Tigers, and the homer to Gordon was the only run he allowed in two innings.

Nick Gordon

Nick Gordon

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

Nick Gordon is used to countless comparisons to older brother Dee.

Now that he is a member of the Chattanooga Lookouts, the younger Gordon expects even more, and he doesn't mind one bit.

"It's a great thing, because me and my brother do a lot of the same things," Gordon said Tuesday at AT&T Field. "To be compared to my brother is definitely a blessing. He's a great player and a great guy on and off the field, but there is still work to be done for me.

"I would one day love to be like my brother."

Nick Gordon is an infielder ranked by Baseball America as the No. 1 prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization. He is coming off a 2016 season in which he hit .291 with 23 doubles, three home runs and 52 RBIs with Fort Myers in the high Single-A Florida State League.

The 6-foot, 175-pounder then went to the Arizona Fall League and shredded it, hitting .346 in 21 contests with the Surprise Saguaros.

"We just want him to continue the progression, because he's been on a great track," Lookouts first-year manager Jake Mauer said. "He has swung the bat well at every level and has been one of the youngest guys at every level. This will be a new challenge for him, facing older pitchers who have a little more savvy and a little more command, and they will have a plan for him, which will be good for his development.

"I would like to see him take more leadership at shortstop, and he's going to play some second base as well."

Gordon was the fifth overall pick of the 2014 draft and hit .294 in 57 games that summer with Elizabethton (Tenn.) in the rookie-level Appalachian League. In 2015, he hit .277 in 120 games with Cedar Rapids (Iowa) of the Single-A Midwest League, when Mauer was his manager.

His older brother played for the 2010 Lookouts, hitting .277 in 133 games and swiping a whopping 53 bases, something Nick admittedly may not challenge.

"Dee stole a bunch," Gordon said. "He's got me on that end right now. I may have a little more thump, so maybe I can hit a couple more homers."

The elder Gordon went on to hit .289 with the 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers and .333 with the 2015 Miami Marlins, when he led the National League in batting average. He is a two-time All-Star but is looking to bounce back from last season, when he served an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

"Nick is a professional hitter," Minnesota player development director Brad Steil said. "His bat is probably the trait that stands out the most. I know his brother played both shortstop and second base, but Nick has primarily played short and may not be quite as quick as his brother. He's still a very good athlete in his own right, and I think in the long run, Nick will probably have a little more power than his brother does.

"His brother is a heck of a player, though, and we're hoping Nick continues on the path he's on and continues to develop on both sides of the ball and turns into a good major league player for us."

The two Gordons are the sons of Tom "Flash" Gordon, who pitched in the major leagues from 1988 to 2009 and was a three-time All-Star. Nick credits his hitting success so far to time spent working with his brother and some tips from his father.

Having such a lineage has been beneficial for the new Lookouts infielder, especially when it comes to the pressure of being a top prospect.

"The game of baseball comes with pressure," Gordon said. "If there wasn't any pressure, we really wouldn't know what kind of players we are and things of that sort. No matter when you're drafted, you're going to have pressure, because you step in that box alone, you take the mound alone, you take shortstop or second base alone, and you take center field alone.

"It's definitely a team game, but if you fail, you're by yourself. The pressure is something that we love and build off, and it's makes us who we are."

Gordon's goal for his upcoming Double-A voyage is to stay healthy and let the numbers be the result of his work and preparation. He is excited about the months ahead, having already received a Scenic City scouting report from Dee.

"He's told me that it's great and that there are wonderful people here and wonderful fans," Gordon said. "He told me that it's a great place to play and to just enjoy it."

Rotation set

Kohl Stewart, who went 9-6 with a 3.03 ERA in 16 starts for the Lookouts last season, will start Thursday night's 6:15 opener against Mobile. Mauer said the rest of the rotation will consist of Paul Clemens, who started Tuesday's exhibition against Chattanooga State, Felix Jorge, Fernando Romero and Matt Tracy.

Stephen Gonsalves, who went 8-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 13 starts with Chattanooga a year ago, will begin the year rehabbing in Florida.

"Gonsalves hurt his shoulder in big league camp and is not stretched out yet," Mauer said. "He will be joining us at some point."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.