Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 11/1/11
Alex Gordon opened the 2011 season wondering how he'd handle the challenge of playing left field in Kauffman Stadium. After 20 outfield assists, only two errors and a highlight reel full of spectacular catches, Gordon's question was answered emphatically Tuesday night. He was awarded the Rawlings Gold Glove as the best defensive left fielder in the American League. Gordon was selected by the league's managers and coaches over fellow finalists Brett Gardner of the Yankees and Tampa Bay's Sam Fuld. "Who'd have thought it?" Gordon admitted after the announcement was made on an ESPN award show. The Royals, who hadn't boasted a Gold Glove winner since second baseman Mark Grudzielanek in 2006, could have had a couple this year. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur, a 2007 National League Gold Glover from his days in Atlanta, was a finalist but lost out to Baltimore's Nick Markakis. "It would have been nice to see Frenchy win it, too," Gordon said, noting that the great years enjoyed by Francoeur and center fielder Melky Cabrera contributed to his own success. "We fed off each other," Gordon said. "Once the assists started piling up, it gave us all confidence. "(Outfield coach) Doug Sisson did a lot of extra work with us on throwing to each base before every series. We complained about it sometimes, but it paid off. "Way back in spring training, (Sisson) told us: "We're going to be the best throwing outfield in baseball.' " The Royals certainly got into the neighborhood of Sisson's target. The stats proved it: Gordon's 20 assists led MLB, and Francoeur was second with 16. The Royals as a group had more outfield assists (51) than any team in baseball. Gordon indicated that his transition from third base probably helped him gun down runners from the outfield. "At third, you have to charge, run in and throw," Alex said. "I think Melky and Frenchy probably have stronger arms than I do, so for me, I had to get to balls quickly and have a quicker release." However stunning Gordon's throwing display might have been, he matched it with a series of amazing catches especially diving at full speed while headed toward the foul line on balls slicing or hooking away from him. "I got to where I felt pretty comfortable," Gordon said, "but I had problems with the transition (from third base), particularly at first. "A lot of people may not have seen it, because it happened in the minor leagues when I was learning the position. I'm sure the pitchers I was playing behind remember it. "(Coach) Rusty Kuntz came down and worked with me, and I really have to thank him for all the help." As sensational as Gordon's overall 2011 season may have been he hit .303 (10th in the league) with 23 homers and 87 RBI while spending most of the year as a lead-off hitter Alex insisted he has room for improvement on his Gold Glove defense. "There are things I want to work on," he said. "I made a couple of errors, my range can improveI can cover more ground." Royals manager Ned Yost said all year that Gordon's success was a combination of talent and lots of hard work, so it's no surprise that Alex is aiming to take another step forward in 2012. "He's one of those guys who is not going to be satisfied," Yost said. "He understands that baseball is a game that can humble you at any time, so you need to work like crazy to become good at it and then you have to work even harder to stay at that level. "But that's Alex. He's going to work as hard as anybody. This improvement, the great year he had, it didn't happen by magic. "He earned it."
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