- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SURPRISE, ARIZ. (AP) - Time is running out on Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon.

For the fourth straight year, the Royals are waiting for the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft to have a breakout season.

Gordon had more at-bats in the minors than the majors last season. When he was optioned May 2 to Triple-A Omaha, he was moved from third base to left field.

“This has got to be it,” Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said Tuesday. “This is his time. He knows it. I don’t feel like at all he’s putting pressure on himself. He’s very focused. He’s always worked extremely hard. He’s always tried to do everything we’ve talked about. It’s just a matter of us doing a major, major surgery on his swing this off-season.

Gordon was the college player of the year as a junior at Nebraska. In 2006, he was the minor league player of the year and the Texas League’s top prospect.

The next year, Gordon was the Royals starting third baseman.

He struck out in his first at-bat with the bases loaded. In the final game of the season, a bad hop grounder broke Gordon’s nose. In between, he hit .247 and struck out 137 times in 543 at-bats.

In 2008, Gordon led AL third basemen with 16 errors.

Hip surgery in 2009 limited Gordon to 49 games. He broke his right thumb in spring training last year, opening the season on the disabled list.

Now comes 2011, and Gordon’s potential is unfulfilled. For the moment.

Gordon said all players go into spring training thinking this will be their best season.

“But it’s something you’ve got to go out there and do,” Gordon said.

Toward that end, Seitzer and other Royals instructors have worked on Gordon’s swing in past years.

“I would say right now he’s closer to being what he was when he got drafted from a video standpoint,” Seitzer said. “From everything I’ve seen, the dude was off the charts. As he got into to pro ball, he worked harder, tried harder, wanted it more, tried to do too much. He wanted to hit for power. wanted to hit the ball hard. All of that brought bad habits.”

Seitzer said to the “normal eye” the changes in Gordon’s swing are not that dramatic.

“But from my standpoint, it’s going to be huge,” Seitzer said. “It’s really huge for him. His confidence right now is probably as high as its ever been since I’ve been here. We’re getting him looser with his upper body, doing pretty much a solid month of drill work, just the tension out of his upper body and really focusing him being more consistent in his approach. His hands are working better. His swing is much better. Now it’s just going to be seeing how consistent he can be once the game starts.”

Royals manager Ned Yost notices the changes.

“He’s been putting on shows in batting practice,” Yost said. “Granted it’s only been batting practice, but his swing looks different. He looks much, much better. The real judge will be in the games when you’re making adjustments off competitive pitching. It looks like the work is paying off for him. It’s just smoothing his swing out more than anything else, really just getting him short and just getting him to stay behind the ball and drive the ball.”

When Gordon debuted in 2007, the Royals moved Mark Teahen from third base to the outfield. Minor league third basemen Mike Moustakas, another No. 2 draft pick, hit 36 home runs last season, and Gordon was shifted to the outfield.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Gordon said. “I think I’ve adjusted to it pretty well. I’m looking forward to spending the whole season out there.”

If his altered batting stroke works, he should have no problem doing that.

“Hopefully it’s going to help,” Gordon said.

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