Shortly before Christmas, the Oakland Athletics agreed to sign 34-year old journeyman pitcher Brian Gordon to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. As one would expect, the deal brought little in the way of excitement or recognition from the Athletics nation. There was no press conference. Nor was there a conference call. Neither was there an official press release from the team. The news of the signing was noted by the good folks at Baseball America and broadcast throughout the Twitterverse, where it made a small ripple among fans with a degree of knowledge regarding the well-traveled hurler.
As those in the know will tell you, the story of Brian Gordon is not for the faint of heart. Encompassing 16 seasons of heartbreak and transition over multiple continents, leagues, organizations and even positions played. The native Texan, has experienced just about every trial and tribulation one could possible face in a quest to make it as a major leaguer. After ten seasons as a left-handed hitting outfielder, Gordon’s career was at the crossroads as the 2006 season came to a close. Mired in his fourth consecutive season at Triple-A, and with no promotion in sight following a season in which he managed to put up a disappointing line of .241/.310/.488, it became evident that he would have to embrace change to continue his career. Change would come in the face of the legendary Nolan Ryan, then a special assistant for the Houston Astros who adopted Gordon as a pet project. Developing a fastball, curveball, slider combination, Gordon took the mound in 2007 reborn as a pitcher.
The results were encouraging. Showcasing a will to improve and knack for throwing strikes, Gordon bounced around as a starter and a reliever over the next few season before earning a call-up to the Rangers for a short stint at the tail-end of 2008. Despite a pair of strong seasons over the next two years at Triple-A, Gordon would not taste the riches of the big leagues again until 2011, when he would suit up in pinstripes to face his former team. In an eventual Yankees win, Gordon filled in for future Athletics Bartolo Colon and tossed 5 1/3 effective innings, limiting the Rangers to two runs scored on seven hits. Achieving more interest for his lack of notoriety as well as his odd alternative to the standard leather glove, Gordon had his moment in the sun and described the start as a “dream come to true”. Unfortunately the dream didn’t last long, and three weeks later he was sold to the Korean League where he remained into last week.
Will we see Brian Gordon contribute in 2013? Well like so many things, that remains to be seen. Rewind the clocks about a year back. Now, what if I were to tell you that a pair of under the radar signings in the form of Travis Blackley and Evan Scribner would end up being difference makers on the mound in a season clinching final series against Texas? What about fellow pitching convert Sean Doolittle, entering a new frontier as a power reliever and quickly becoming a trusted set-up man in Bob Melvin‘s bullpen? Seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? Let the cards play out, perhaps Gordon will play an important role in ’13. After all, stranger things have happened.