Commentary

Michael Young makes it about baseball

Veteran addresses teammates, gets to work as he prepares for new role with Rangers

Updated: February 20, 2011, 11:56 PM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As a few raindrops fell over the Texas Rangers' spring training complex early Sunday morning, Michael Young was in the batting cages by himself, pounding balls off a tee.

One day after reporting to camp and a couple of weeks after asking to be traded, Young began his preparations for the 2011 season as if nothing unusual had happened.

He was at the field at 6 a.m. for a physical and then went about his typical routine of hitting balls in the cage to help loosen up before beginning workouts.

Young The guys know me well and I know them well and I thought it was important to say a couple of things about it and move on.

-- Michael Young

"He came in smiling, gave everybody hugs and was cutting up like he normally does," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "He's the same guy. Nothing has changed. It's just like any other year."

Young wanted to reassure his teammates that his offseason issues would not carry over into spring training.

So he asked manager Ron Washington for some time to speak to his teammates Sunday at the beginning of the club's annual meeting to kick off full squad workouts.

Young told his team that he did not want his offseason issues to be a distraction, saying that the entire team just needs to focus on using spring training to get prepared for the season.

"I think that was talked about more than getting ready for the season, and I think that's unnecessary," Young said. "The guys know me well and I know them well and I thought it was important to say a couple of things about it and move on."

Young, carrying his equipment bag, walked onto the field sharing a laugh with Mike Napoli, one of the newest additions to the team and a guy who could get some time at DH along with Young.

Napoli, who can play first base, DH and catch, said he's always enjoyed watching how Young played consistently throughout his career.

"His approach to the game is impressive," Napoli said. "He's a great hitter. Just being back there trying to get him out; he's such a tough out every time he comes up, especially with people on base. You think, 'What am I going to have to do to get him out?' Even when he gets two strikes on him, he's tough to get out. His approach to hitting is pretty amazing."

Napoli doesn't believe that his role will take at-bats away from Young.

"He gets over 200 hits every year," Napoli said. "I don't think me being here is going to take away from his game. He's going to be out there every day, even if it's DH, first base, second base, third base, wherever. He'll get his at-bats and I'm pretty sure I'll get mine too."

Young's focus now is adjusting to his new role. That includes learning first base, a position he's never played.

At one point during Sunday's chilly workout, Young walked over to a back field with infield coach Dave Anderson and got some pointers on footwork and where his foot needs to be when he's receiving balls. Young is confident that he will get used to the position.

"I'd never played third base in my life either," Young said. "You learn by doing. You get out there, work hard and find a way to figure it out.

"I'm sure there are a lot of challenges to first base that I'm not aware of right now. I'm sure it's not nearly as easy as catching ground balls and covering first base. I'm sure there are a lot of things that are involved that I'm going to have to pick up. But if that's what my job description entails, I'll be ready for it."

Young said he plans on getting early work at first base on Monday. He also took grounders at second base, a position that he feels confident about.

After Young had been playing shortstop for two seasons, he went back to second for the 2006 World Baseball Classic and said it was as if he'd never left that spot.

"Second base is my most natural position," he said. "It feels like home for me. I'm going to want to get my feet wet again, but it's by far the position on the field where I feel most comfortable."

So Young is in full preparation mode. His sole focus is soaking up as much knowledge as he can to be sure he's ready for the role the Rangers have planned for him in 2011.

It seems that his teammates got that message.

"He's a leader and that hasn't changed," pitcher Derek Holland said. "He's a guy I want to be like on and off the field. He's someone I can go to. He doesn't want this to impact us, and it won't. We're behind him and now we just want to go out and play."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.

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