Unhappy?: No signs from Michael Young
March, 1, 2011
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- For anyone who thought a disgruntled Michael Young would sulk and let his work ethic slump over his new role, well, yeah, whatever.
Young remains the same determined straight shooter he's been the last 11 seasons with the Texas Rangers -- never satisfied and always pushing himself.
"That’s the thing, that’s something that I’m going to fight," Young said after he made his debut at first base Monday as part of his new super-utility role. "I just don’t accept that veteran players just kind of relax and settle into a role of just who they are. That’s not me. I’m not going to leave well enough alone. I’m not going to be satisfied. I think there’s always parts of my game that I can improve on. Baseball is a skill game and I have a lot of parts of my game I can get better at so that’s what I’m going to try to do at camp."
And for anyone who thought Young would snub newcomer Mike Napoli because of a perception that Young was unhappy with the acquisition because it could cut into his plate appearances as designated hitter, they're dead wrong, too. Napoli drove in Young -- who doubled and tripled in his two at-bats -- in the fourth inning of Monday's 12-11 Rangers victory with a two-run homer off Royals lefty Everett Teaford. Napoli, starting as the DH, was brought in to supply pop off the bench against lefties.
"He was a thorn in our side when he was in Anaheim. He can hit for power," Young said. "I think what he’s done in his career speaks for itself. When he got here in camp I think we’ve all been impressed with just how good a teammate he seems. That’s the kind of thing guys look at first. He seems a really good guy. Seems like he’s fit in really well since Day 1 and I’m excited that he’s here."
So much for acrimony and shattered clubhouse chemistry.
Since he arrived in camp, Young hasn't wavered as the clubhouse leader. He might not be doing jumping jacks over being pushed out of an everyday position in the field, but he's going with it and working to excel at it. He started at third base Sunday in place of the injured Adrian Beltre, and he played first base Monday, making just one play on a slow hopper. He'll take Tuesday off and then likely head to second base for Wednesday's game against the Angels.
Young spent much of his offseason seeking ways to improve his production at the plate as he slides down the order from the two-hole to six-hole. The career .300 hitter finished at .284 last season with 21 home runs and 91 RBIs, but his on-base percentage dropped 47 points to .330, his lowest mark since 2002 (.308).
"Mechanically, this spring I feel like I’m a little farther ahead than I usually am," Young said.
That's good since he'll be taking more time breaking in another new position (first base) while getting used to two old ones (second base and shortstop).
"It’s my responsibilities on certain plays: First and third, pop up in the outfield, shallow, where am I supposed to be?" Young said, describing the toughest part of learning to play first base. "I want to make sure that I’m in the right place at the right time and know my responsibilities and where I’m supposed to be on every ball put in play. That’s the biggest thing. I know on ground balls I’m supposed to at first base. I know that. The other stuff I want to make sure that I’m on top of that."