Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Familiar Face in KC Outfield? Yes, Mark Teahen's

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mark Teahen has departed for further winter workout activities in Florida after practicing catching flies in the outfield at the team's spring training complex in Surprise, Ariz. It's a likely prelude to Teahen's new job description.

Teahen will return to Surprise in about 10 days, setting the stage for a competition of sorts to see who will play third base this season, Teahen or minor leaguer Alex Gordon. You may as well pencil in Gordon now.

It's not that Teahen hasn't played well at third -- he most certainly has. What's not to like about his ability to hit for average and power, plus his more than respectable defense and likeable clubhouse presence. He's an up and comer who should have little difficulty prompting a trade of veterans Reggie Sanders, 39, or Emil Brown, 32, or their move to the No. 4 outfield spot. Teahen is a natural athlete, though he has never played the outfield during his professional career.

Teahen will be forced to give up his third base job simply because he will never outperform nor even remotely match the play of Gordon, who is regarded by many to be the single best prospect in all of baseball.

Gordon is prime Nebraska beef, hailing from Lincoln, the heart of the team's northern fan base. As a lad he made frequent visits to Kaufmann Stadium with his family to watch Hall of Famer George Brett, for whom his brother Brett is named. The No. 2 overall selection signed for a $4 million bonus, and hit .325 with 29 homers in 486 at-bats last year for Kansas City's AA Wichita farm club.

Barring a complete meltdown during spring training or during April and May, Gordon, who just turned 22, is a virtual lock to be called up not much later than June, a rendezvous point that will help the team push back his contract arbitration date. But Gordon may likely win the job by opening day, ushering a new era in Kansas City, when the names on the basepaths will be not only those of Gordon and Teahen, but can't-miss prospects Billy Butler, 22, in right, and Ryan Shealy, 27, at first.

Having too many good third basemen is a nice problem for manager Buddy Bell, who soon will have a convenient excuse to move Teahen to left field for a couple months of on-the-job training.