LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers rookie shortstop Dee Gordon was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque before Monday night's game with the San Francisco Giants, a nod to the fact Gordon is such a highly valued prospect that club officials want him to play every day instead of coming off the bench.
Gordon was pushed out of the Dodgers' every-day lineup by the return on Sunday of veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal from the disabled list.
To fill Gordon's roster spot, the Dodgers purchased the contract of versatile infielder/outfielder Eugenio Velez from Albuquerque, where he was hitting .339 with a .391 on-base percentage. Velez, who signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers last winter, will be making his Dodgers debut, although he did spend parts of four major league seasons with San Francisco, compiling a career average of .256.
Gordon, an athletic speedster who brings a flashy, electrifying approach to the game, got off to a hot start after the Dodgers purchased his contract a month ago, but he had cooled considerably of late. He leaves with a .232 average and a .250 OBP, although he was successful on eight of his 11 stolen-base attempts.
Gordon said he was told of his demotion by manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti when he arrived at the ballpark.
"It's fine because I'm a player,'' Gordon said. "I'm not worried about it because I'm just going to play and make myself a better player. I'm just going to work hard enough so that the next time I come, I won't have to go back down.''
Gordon's days were numbered as soon as Furcal came back from the DL, and both Mattingly and Colletti hinted strongly on Sunday that another move was forthcoming. In fact, had veteran third baseman Casey Blake not suffered a worsening of an arthritic condition in his neck, necessitating him being placed on the 15-day DL, Gordon probably would have been sent down immediately when Furcal came back.
But if Gordon saw the move coming, he wouldn't admit it.
"I tried not to focus on it,'' he said. "I just tried to play. I just thank God for the opportunity to at least come up once. I'm happy about that.''
Mattingly said the most lasting impression he got from Gordon was during a conversation at shortstop during batting practice on the team's previous homestand, when Gordon told him he wanted to be "the best."
"He showed me he wants to be great," Mattingly said. "That was the best thing. You could see the speed. For me, I could see a swing that is going to work. You could see the range, and you could see tons of ability. But the biggest thing he showed me was he wanted to be really good. Just the way he went about his business. He said, 'I want to be the best.'"
The switch-hitting Velez, 29, has big league experience at second base and all three outfield spots. He primarily was playing left field for the Isotopes.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.