FORT MYERS, FLA. – Nick Gordon no longer drinks soda. He lays off fried foods as much as possible. Milk? No. Ice cream? Out. No cereal.
“A lot of stuff I used to love to eat and drink, not anymore,” Gordon said. “I’m not against it. I’m for my body.”
It has taken Gordon awhile to figure out what is best for him. And it hasn’t been a pleasant process. He has battled gastritis the past two seasons and was late to this spring training as he completed his treatment. But he debuted Thursday against Baltimore and is out to remind the Twins what kind of player he can be.
The 24-year-old Gordon started at second base against the Orioles, going 2-for-3 while handling the two ground balls hit to him flawlessly.
“It was awesome,” Gordon said. “I kind of got nervous, ‘Oh man, I’m back out here,’ but once you get the first ground ball, it’s like, all right, we’re playing the same game. It definitely was fun. I couldn’t wait to get out here.”
He has played in two more games since, including on Sunday, when he went 0-for-3 with an RBI and run scored in the Twins’ 7-6 loss to Boston. Gordon is expected to get plenty of playing time for as long he remains in camp.
Gordon, the son of longtime major league pitcher Tom (Flash) Gordon and the brother of Seattle’s Dee Gordon, was the fifth overall pick by the Twins in the 2014 draft and was listed among their top 10 prospects as recently as 2018. With Jorge Polanco establishing himself as the Twins’ shortstop of the present, Nick Gordon looked to be in line to become the Twins’ second baseman of the future.
Gordon is a line drive hitter with a steady glove in the field. But he has worn down late in the season the past couple of years, with the gastrointestinal problem a factor. He is listed in the Twins media guide at 6-0 and 160 pounds.
And the term “gastritis” — defined as inflammation of the lining of the stomach — will have to do for now. “I don’t think we found out the term exactly,” Gordon said. “It was something similar to gastritis. A very extreme case of gastritis. The walls of my stomach were very thin. It could have led to a lot of other things, so I’m definitely glad we caught it when we did.”
This problem, Gordon said, has bugged him for nearly two years.
“I was playing around 190, 185,” Gordon said. “Then 2018, I got sick and went down to about 160, and it’s been tough since then. Just kind of playing through it. Now to be able to have a grip on it and gain weight and see the results feels a lot better, man. Because my head is a lot clearer.”
Gordon appeared in only 70 games last season for Class AAA Rochester. He opened the season on the injured list, came off, then went back on in May because of an adductor strain. Luis Arraez was called up from Class AA Pensacola to replace Gordon, but only days later Arraez was needed in the major leagues. As Gordon struggled with health, Arraez was passing him on the organizational depth chart.
Gordon batted .298 for the Red Wings with 29 doubles, four home runs and 40 RBI but was hit in the leg with a pitch on Aug. 2, which ended his season. The injuries and stomach issues took a toll on him. He thought he was in good shape when he reported to Twins camp in February, only to have more stomach problems and lose more weight. He realized he needed to do more.
“I’m not one to make excuses, though,” he said. “It could have been handled on my part a little better as far as trying exactly to get what it was. I was more worried about playing than my body. The older you get, you need your body. Even now, when you’re young, you need your body. Definitely finding out more about it and taking a hold of it.”
With another top prospect — 2017 No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis — potentially reaching Rochester this year, Gordon has to re-establish himself on the depth chart. MLB.com ranks him as the Twins’ 17th-best prospect.
It would take a series of setbacks to the major league roster for the Twins to even consider Gordon at this point. But a strong start at Rochester would put him high in the pecking order if the Twins needed a middle infielder.
“It’s always good to be able to see your young players,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We didn’t get a chance to see him play much last spring, we didn’t get a chance to see him on the field. So that’s what this spring we were really looking forward to, and I still think we’ll get a chance to see him a decent amount.”