Michael Young: Still Here. Still Hitting.
The defending American League champion Texas Rangers somehow only have two starters (C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis) inked into the rotation. Their elite closer (Neftali Feliz) might be a starter but his replacement (Alexi Ogando) got lit up for three late runs in yesterday's loss to the Dodgers. Owner Chuck Greenberg is gone. And strangest of all, on Monday afternoon, the Rangers took the field and Michael Young trotted out ... to first base.
We've seen No. 10 at second, short and third during his career. But he's at first. Well, for now at least.
"It's still baseball, but it's different," Young said. "Strange as it is for fans, it's just as strange for me to be there."
To make room for new third baseman Adrian Beltre, the Rangers have diminished Young's role to something called designated hitter/super utility man. He's learning first base, a position crowded by starter Mitch Moreland and backup Mike Napoli. In spring training, he's played in 12 of Texas' 17 games, mostly hitting sixth in a spot designed for him to not have to be as patient as last year when he batted second. In the sixth hole, especially at DH, his job is to drive in runs.
So far, so good.
Young leads all Rangers regulars with a .407 average, going 11 of 27 with two doubles and two triples. In five games in the field at first and second base, he's made one error in seven total chances. On Monday he handled a hot grounder at first and smoothly jogged to first for the unassisted put out.
While Young continues to hit and learn how to use a new glove, the Rangers are still attempting to trade him. But, according to Jon Daniels, breaking camp with Young still a Ranger is a distinct possibility.
"Absolutely," Daniels said. "I'd have no problem with that scenario at all. Michael's a great baseball player."
While Greenberg and Nolan Ryan parted last week after a colossal difference in management philosophies, Young and Daniels have at least hit pause on their disagreements. Saying he'd been lied to by Daniels, the Rangers' captain demanded a trade last month.
Daniels admits the rocky relationship and it's awkward when GM and captain are avoiding each other.
"We haven't," Daniels said when asked if he's sat down to talk with Young this spring. "At some point that probably needs to happen."
Michael Young, first baseman.