Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins’ Dee Gordon transforms into first-rate second baseman

Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon throws to first base to put out Colorado Rockies' Charlie Blackmon in the first inning Friday, June 5, 2015, in Denver.
Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon throws to first base to put out Colorado Rockies' Charlie Blackmon in the first inning Friday, June 5, 2015, in Denver. AP

Let Dee Gordon tell you in his own words how he looked defensively at second base on the very first day of spring training in February, his first day wearing a Marlins uniform.

“I was terrible.”

“I was weird-looking, like an idiot.”

“I remember the first double play I turned. It was so ugly. I was, like, ‘Oh my gosh. I stink.’”

And now?

In only a few months time, Gordon has evolved into one of the best defensive second basemen in the majors.

He has made only two errors, second-lowest total in the majors.

His “Defensive War,” which takes into account a number of factors to arrive at a figure that sums up a player’s defensive value, ranks him tied with Detroit’s Ian Kinsler as the top second baseman in the majors.

He has saved more runs with his glove than any other second baseman.

“He’s played about as well as you can at second baseman,” Marlins infield coach Perry Hill said. “I think by this time next year, he’ll look like he’s played there all his life.”

Gordon was always a shortstop until the Dodgers moved him to second last season. It was a transition filled with growing pains, to say the least.

“Honestly, I was winging it out there,” Gordon said. “It was just me playing, not getting much teaching on it.”

That all changed when the Marlins traded for Gordon in December. From then on, Gordon received more instruction than he ever thought possible. He and Hill spoke by phone a dozen times, discussing defense, before spring training even started.

“We talked about that he has to trust the process,” Hill said. “I told him I’m going to give you a lot of stuff you’ve never heard before.”

Gordon was raw when he showed in Jupiter for spring training.

“Just say he needed a few tweaks here and there,” Hill said, putting it mildly. “There were some days we spent like an hour on that back diamond, and we’d come away with no progress.”

Over time, they ironed out the kinks, to the point that Gordon now says he prefers defense to hitting even though he’s putting up eye-catching numbers with a league-leading .368 average.

“Defense is the funnest part,” Gordon said. “I love defense.”

Coupled with slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, the Marlins now have arguably the best defensive middle infield in the majors.

“Playing with Hech and learning from [Hill] are the two best things that have happened to me,” Gordon said.

Gordon said he feels so in sync with Hechavarria.

“We just feed off each other,” he said. “We always know who has what ball. Those balls up the middle, I don’t flinch on them when I know he’s got them. And he doesn’t flinch when he knows I have them.”

MATHIS FINALLY BACK

It took close to two months, but backup catcher Jeff Mathis finally made his way back from the disabled list from a broken hand and joined the Marlins Friday in Denver.

“It was a long seven or eight weeks,” said Mathis, whose hand was broken by a foul ball on April 12.

Even with Mathis back in the fold, manager Dan Jennings said he intends to continue having rookie J.T. Realmuto handling the bulk of the catching duties.

“Nothing will change,” Jennings said of Realmuto’s workload.

Jennings said he plans on using Mathis in day games following night games, and mix-and-match situations.

▪ Mat Latos could be making what will be his final rehab start Monday for Triple A New Orleans when he is scheduled to throw 85 to 90 pitches. He could be back in the Marlins’ rotation shortly after that.

“I hope that it can be that,” Jennings said. “It would be nice to have that veteran presence back in the rotation.”

▪ First baseman Michael Morse (right finger sprain) will begin taking dry swings in the coming days.

▪ Henderson Alvarez (right shoulder inflammation) will resume throwing next week.

▪ Jarred Cosart (vertigo) is scheduled to pitch in an extended spring game Saturday in Jupiter.

▪ Jose Fernandez (elbow) will make his first rehab start on Saturday for Single A Jupiter and throw no more than 60 pitches.

COMING UP

▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP David Phelps (2-2, 3.50 ERA) at Colorado Rockies LHP Chris Rusin (1-0, 0.77), 4:10 p.m., Coors Field.

▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena (0-2, 7.24) at Rockies RHP Kyle Kendrick (2-7, 6.55), 4:10 p.m., Coors Field.

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