OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -Alex Gordon is getting less attention as he enters his second major league season, and that's just how the Kansas City Royals' low-key third baseman likes it.
Expectations for Gordon were extremely high after he was drafted No. 2 overall out of Nebraska in 2005. Those expectations grew exponentially after he was selected minor league player of the year in 2006.
Suddenly, before his first big league at-bat, the blond-haired Gordon was being compared with Hall of Famer George Brett.
But when Gordon's batting average hovered around .170 in early June, all the talk about Brett was replaced with grousing that Gordon should be sent back to the minors.
``I wanted to do so well at the beginning, and I put a lot of pressure on myself,'' Gordon said Wednesday at a stop on the Royals Caravan. ``When it didn't happen at first, that's when I started pressing a little bit, trying to do too much. Once I started relaxing and having fun and playing the game like I always played, that's when I started to come around.''
Gordon batted .300 from June to September and finished at .247 with 15 home runs, 60 RBIs and a team-leading 36 doubles in 151 games.
He'll go to spring training next month with something he didn't have a year ago - job security.
``He'll be able to play just a little more relaxed and be able to take a deep breath,'' said outfielder Mark Teahen, who joined Gordon on the Caravan stop. ``He came into the league with a heck of a lot more hype than most guys. With the hole he dug the first two months, to turn it around like he did, it shows a lot about his character and how he grinds it out as a ballplayer.''
Teahen speaks from experience. During his rookie season in 2005, Teahen batted .230 with three home runs in his first 102 games, but .303 with four homers over his last 28 games. The following year, Teahen boosted his production to .290 with 18 home runs.
Gordon said he liked everything about last year's finish except his final play of the season.
With two outs in the ninth inning against Cleveland, Kelly Shoppach hit a hard grounder to third. The ball bounced up and hit Gordon in the face, breaking his nose.
``I turned to my side and saw just a flash of light, and I was on the ground bleeding,'' Gordon said. ``I had to get surgery on it. It turned out good. But we were one strike away. Honestly, it was the last pitch of the year. A disaster.''
The 2007 Royals avoided losing 100 games for the first time in three seasons, and Gordon said he's encouraged by the offseason moves made by general manager Dayton Moore.
The team's big free-agent signing was Jose Guillen, who batted .290 with 23 homers and 99 RBIs for Seattle last season. Guillen probably will play right field.
``There is quite a buzz about the outfielder we got because of the power numbers he brings,'' Gordon said. ``We hope he can continue that with us. We moved the fences in a little bit, so that should help.''
The Royals also beefed up their pitching, with Ron Mahay coming over from Atlanta and Brett Tomko from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
``Dayton has done a great job,'' Gordon said. ``It's hard to compete with the Yankees and Boston Red Sox and the payroll they've got. He's done a great job of getting the right guys.''
Add in young returning players such as Gordon, Teahen, Tony Pena Jr. and John Buck, and a new manager in Trey Hillman, and the Royals believe they're not far from being able to challenge in the AL Central.
Gordon said Hillman has done a good job getting to know the players on a human level. He said Hillman doesn't plan to talk baseball with the players until they arrive for spring training.
``He's a fun, energetic guy,'' Gordon said, ``and that's going to fit well with our team because we're a bunch of young guys who play like that.''

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