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Rookie shortstop Dee Gordon's chances of staying with the Dodgers are looking pretty slim

The slender 23-year-old has impressed with his speed and defense but has struggled at the plate after a fast start, and he could be sent back to the minor leagues if Rafael Furcal is activated Sunday.

July 01, 2011|By Matt Stevens
  • Dee Gordon sprints to beat a throw at first base during the seventh inning of the Dodgers' 5-0 interleague victory over the Angels on Friday.
Dee Gordon sprints to beat a throw at first base during the seventh inning… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

By major league standards, Dee Gordon is a little small.

The Dodgers' slender 23-year-old shortstop is of about average height at 5 feet 11, but sitting next to Aaron Miles in the locker room, Gordon's arms look like twigs to Miles' tree branches.

However, Gordon's stature issues may cease to exist as of Sunday — not because he plans to add to his 150-pound frame, but because he may no longer be a major leaguer.

Before the Dodgers' game Friday night against the Angels, Manager Don Mattingly said that Rafael Furcal is tentatively scheduled to come off the disabled list before Sunday's game. That probably means Gordon is headed back to the minors.

"We'll make that decision on Sunday," Mattingly said about what Furcal's return could mean for Gordon. "It is a decision we will make when we have to make it. [General Manager] Ned [Colletti] and I haven't really even talked about it at this point."

And Gordon isn't talking about it either.

"That's got nothing to do with me," he said of Furcal's reinstatement. "I've just got to play right now."

When Gordon was called up June 6 to replace Furcal, he had no trouble living up to management's lofty expectations. In his first game, the speedy shortstop went three for five, and he continued to hit, batting .302 over his first 10 games.

But after starting hot, Gordon has struggled. Hitting in the No. 9 spot Friday, Gordon singled to right in the second inning of the Dodgers' 5-0 victory, but his one-for-five night brought his average up to only .138 in his last 10 games.

"Growing pains are natural for everybody, no matter how many years you have," veteran utility infielder Jamey Carroll said. "You're going to have ups and downs and you've got to make adjustments regardless of how many at-bats you have in the big leagues. It's about how you handle it, and it seems like he's been doing a pretty good job."

Gordon walks and talks like a veteran, though he's been a Dodger for less than a month. He seems to have a sense of perspective about his slump.

"It's 20 games," he said. "I'm trying to play for 20 years. You're going to go up and down."

Mattingly said he hasn't lost faith in Gordon.

"Dee's OK," the manager said. "I thought he swung the bat pretty good in Minnesota [earlier this week]. He just went through a stretch where they pitched him a certain way."

Gordon's flashes of brilliance had caused Mattingly to consider moving Furcal to second base to keep the rookie at shortstop. But Mattingly said Friday that the idea has been shelved "for now."

If the Dodgers go with Furcal over Gordon, the team will lose one of its fastest players. Gordon's speed has served as a useful weapon for an offense that generally lacks them.

Friday night, for example, Gordon generated the Dodgers' fifth run essentially on his own. He reached on a fielder's choice, stole second, took third on a pickoff attempt at first, and finally stole home while Tony Gwynn Jr. was caught in a rundown. It was the first steal of home by a Dodger since 2004.

"He's a fun kid to play with, really upbeat, has a lot of talent, so he's exciting to watch play," Carroll said.

Said Gordon: "Everything's been great. I've got great teammates. I'm in a great organization. You can't have anything better."

matthew.stevens@latimes.com

twitter.com/mattstevenslat

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