Less than a week ago the Dayton Dragons had the worst record in the Midwest League and were in last place in the Eastern Division, and outfielder Miles Gordon was in Arizona revamping his swing. Suddenly the Dragons are the hottest team in the league with five straight wins and out of last place, and Gordon is one of the league’s hottest hitters.
The Dragons opened a homestand Friday night with a 9-4 victory over Fort Wayne. Lyon Richardson, the Reds’ second-round pick last year, pitched five strong innings to earn his first victory and continue the recent string of strong outings by Dragons’ starters.
“They’re making adjustments and it’s getting better and better,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said of the pitching staff. “They’re learning to trust more of the process and attack the hitters. It took a little bit, but they’re starting to understand more.”
And it’s no coincidence that Gordon rejoined the Dragons five games ago. Gordon was 4-for-4 with a home run Friday night and is batting .429 since his return from extended spring training. Gordon’s season in Dayton ended last year on June 9 when he suffered a broken foot. He started this season with a promotion to Daytona, but after 19 games he was batting .206. So the Reds sent him to their spring training complex in Arizona for about three weeks to work with Cody Atkinson, the 30-year-old they hired this past offseason to be the hitting assessment and run production coach for major- and minor-league players.
“If you look at video from before and now, it’s a complete 180,” Gordon said. “The biggest thing is just trying to move athletically. Before I found myself kind of stuck when I went to swing, and not much movement. Now I’m just feeling free and I’m able to strike the ball pretty well. I gotta give all the credit to Cody.”
Gordon’s first three hits Friday were soft ones, including two that didn’t leave the infield. He hit a solo homer in his final at-bat for a 9-2 lead.
“I had three hits going into my final at-bat, but I didn’t feel great, to be honest, about my night,” he said. “I felt like i was kind of getting back to my old habits. I wasn’t really moving free, so I just got up there and decided I was going to go get this ball and not let it get into my space.”
Gordon’s return to the team along with Randy Ventura, who also started the season in Daytona, has given the Dragons more experience.
“They’re bringing good energy and a good vibe for the team,” Bolivar said.
The Dragons (22-39) are eliminated from earning a playoff spot in the first half of the season. But Bolivar is confident the second half will be better.
“We’ve stayed positive with those guys,” Bolivar said. “We know at some point everything’s going to turn around. With the confidence the guys are building, I think we’re going to be a different team in the second half.”
All-star: Catcher and first baseman Pabel Manzanero will represent the Dragons in the Midwest League All-Star Game on June 18 in South Bend, Indiana. Manzanero entered Friday’s game batting .333 over his past 17 games. On the season, he’s batting .277 and slugging .431 with six home runs and 22 RBIs. On April 23, Manzanero became the fourth Dragons player to hit three home runs in a game. He is from Venezuela and signed with the Reds in 2012.
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