By Rob Rains
JUPITER, Fla. – Nolan Gorman came to Florida early, before the official opening of spring training, so he could get in some extra work with Jose Oquendo about the ins and outs of playing second base.
On Tuesday, he began to put what he has learned into practice in a modified game setting.
Gorman, the top minor-league prospect in the Cardinals organization, played second base in a five-inning simulated game on a back field in the Cardinals’ complex. Although he was not tested extensively, he did turn a double play and catch a popup.
What he really accomplished, however, was just increase his comfort level at a position he really has never played before.
“There were no plays to me, but just learning and understanding where I need to be on balls hit to certain positions,” Gorman said. “We had a couple of situations with the infield in and different things like that, holding runners. it was good to have a real game and understand all that positioning.”
Primarily a shortstop when he was growing up, Gorman moved to third base in high school and that is where he has played in his first two seasons in the Cardinals’ farm system and at the alternate site camp last summer.
The arrival of All Star and perennial Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado, however, and his long-term contract, put Gorman into the market for a new shorter glove and a new position.
While Gorman has played third in the Cardinals’ regular games this spring, his days on the practice fields have included spending a lot of time at second.
“I’ve spent a lot of time at second,” Gorman said, “getting comfortable with knowing where to be, positioning. If it’s going to help the big squad win then that’s what I’m willing to do. I just want to make sure I’m dialed in there.
“It’s still fielding groundballs. It’s baseball. I think the biggest thing is just knowing cuts and relays and first and third defenses and different plays that we have going on. What I really need to understand now is where to be and when to be there. That was kind of the biggest adjustment, but I think I’m getting used to it now.”
The next test for Gorman likely will be to play second in a main spring training game sometime before camp ends in two weeks.
“Oquendo and Stubby (Clapp) have been great, getting in all the work that I need,” Gorman said. “Today was a good test and I’m ready for anything. Whenever it happens I will definitely be ready.”
The 20-year-old Gorman knew as soon as Arenado became a Cardinal that his future likely would be at another position. While there also have been suggestions about playing the outfield, Gorman hopes he can remain on the infield.
“I want to help the team win anyway I can, and wanting to stay on the dirt, you’ve got to take whatever opportunity you’re given,” Gorman said. “That’s a position (second base) where I just said I’m going to work hard there and learn it and try to become the best at it.”
Gorman likely will begin this season at Double A Springfield and almost certainly will see time at both third and second, and perhaps even in the outfield, this year.
“That’s really out of my control,” he said. “I don’t get to choose where I play and when I play it. Wherever they tell me to go I’m going to go play it and play it the best I can. Obviously, the bat is the carrying tool and I’m going to focus on that and produce for the team.”
Gorman said he has gloves for every position except first base.
“Whatever position they need I’m going to be there and be ready to attack and do whatever I need to do to help the team win,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo of Nolan Gorman by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports