Monday, February 28, 2011
Michael Young makes first start at 1B
By Jeff Caplan
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Veteran infielder Michael Young visited unfamiliar territory Monday, making his first-ever start at first base during the Texas Rangers' spring training game against the Kansas City Royals.
"I've never played a game at first," Young said before the game.
Not in Little League, high school or even UC-Santa Barbara. Not in the minors, and definitely not during any of his 11 seasons in the major leagues.
Young handled only one chance in four innings on Monday. Demonstrating why they want him in the lineup, he had a double and a triple and scored a run.
"No surprises today. Everything was pretty routine," Young said after he left the game. "A little unusual, sure. I mean it's the first time I've been there, at least in a game situation. So, yeah, it was a little unusual."
The newbie first baseman has had a mission in spring: get a first baseman's glove.
"I'm going to work one in right now," Young said Monday morning as he dressed for workouts. "I've being using C.D.'s [Chris Davis] for a while."
Young, who used Davis' glove vs. the Royals on Monday, is still working out his own first baseman's glove.
He might need a separate locker just for his gloves this season -- he'll have at least three for the different positions he'll play as a super-utility man. His middle infield glove is smaller than his third baseman's glove, which is obviously smaller than an oversized first baseman's glove, which is halfway to a catcher's mitt.
"It's definitely different," Young said. "It's big."
Meanwhile, Davis started Monday's game at third base, where he's getting plenty of action this spring while Adrian Beltre is out with a calf strain. Davis said he doesn't really care if he's at the hot corner or first base.
"Whatever keeps me in the lineup, to be honest," Davis said.
First base is considered the easier position to field, and plenty of players have made the transition from third base, catcher and the outfield. Plus, Young isn't moving there full time, just on a sporadic basis assuming Mitch Moreland wins the position outright. Mike Napoli can also play first.
There are plenty of nuances to playing first base that require practice time to get rhythm, timing and instinct down, such as pick-off throws, general positioning, the stretch and the scoop. For at least his first few games at first, Young will get dugout direction from Rangers coach Dave Anderson and manager Ron Washington.
"I just want him to get over there and get comfortable and get relaxed," Washington said. "I know if a ground ball goes to him, he's going to catch it. If a ground ball goes in the infield, he's going to put himself in position to make the play. There's nothing special that I'm looking for. I just want him to get through the day. If he gets through the day healthy, I'll be happy."
Jeff Caplan covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.