Young to return to second base for WBC team

Updated: February 27, 2006, 7:31 PM ET
Associated Press

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- All-Star shortstop Michael Young is switching back to second base -- a temporary move that isn't for the Texas Rangers.

Texas Rangers

159 24 91 114 .385 .331

When Young joins Team USA later this week to begin preparations for the World Baseball Classic, he will go as a second baseman. It will be the first time he's taken grounders on the right side of the infield since AL MVP Alex Rodriguez left Texas two years ago.

"I'll wait until I get over there," Young said Monday. "I want to make sure that my teammates know that my No. 1 priority is improving at shortstop. When I get over there, I'll focus on second. It won't be a problem."

Before winning the AL batting title last year (.331 average and majors-best 221 hits) and being an All-Star shortstop for the second time, Young was the Rangers' starting second baseman for 2 seasons. He moved to shortstop, his primary position in the minor leagues, when Rodriguez got traded to the New York Yankees two springs ago.

Derek Jeter, who remained at shortstop in New York while A-Rod shifted to third base, is the shortstop for Team USA.

Young was one of the best defensive second basemen in the major leagues, with only 17 errors in 1,231 total chances (.986 fielding percentage) in 2002 and 2003 -- his only full seasons at the position. He was fourth among AL shortstops with a .974 percentage last season.

"Range-wise, it's the same exact position. You have to put a little more steam on your throws from short," Young said. "I'm going to go over there and play second, because that's what I was asked to do. And then I'll come back here and focus on playing shortstop."

Young and All-Star first baseman Mark Teixeira, who won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards last season, are scheduled to join the U.S. team in nearby Phoenix on Thursday. Both are expected to play in intrasquad games Tuesday and Wednesday before leaving the Rangers camp.

Teixeira will play his normal position during the international tournament.

Rangers manager Buck Showalter and his coaches aren't concerned about Young's temporary switch since it's not a new position for him.

"It'd be a concern if he's never played second base, but he was an outstanding second baseman," Rangers infield coach Steve Smith said. "All he needs to do once he gets there, he's going to work on it a little bit on his feeds just to feel comfortable."

When Young gets back, the Rangers expect him to pick up where he leaves off. So does he.

With the exception of being on the right side of the infield, Young plans to maintain his normal preseason routine while away from the Rangers -- a stint that could extend as late as March 20 if the U.S. team managed by Buck Martinez makes it to the finals.

"I have a pretty good routine of what I have to get done," Young said. "The great thing about the team that we have going over there, a majority of the guys are veteran guys. they know exactly what they need to do to prepare for the season."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press