Michael Young adjusting to Phillies – and to Philly

Michael Young adjusting to Phillies – and to Philly

February 15, 2013, 10:45 am
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CLEARWATER, Fla – It had to happen eventually. Michael Young expected it. He just didn’t know it would go down at the airport.

Young was going through security at Philadelphia International when one of the TSA screeners checked his license and noticed that it had a Dallas address.

“She looks at me,” Young said, telling the story with a grin, “and I thought she was going to call the cops on me. I was checking my pockets to make sure I don’t have a knife on me or anything. She asked if I was a Cowboys fan.”

Young told the truth.

“I said 'Yeah,'” Young continued. “She was pissed. She was not happy with that answer at all.”

He laughed and the reporters laughed, too. It was a good, if predictable, yarn.

Young will be forgiven for that particular sin against his new city if he has a solid season for the Phillies this year. The 36-year-old was acquired during the offseason in a trade with the Texas Rangers, the only team Young had played for over 13 major-league seasons.

“Bringing Michael to Philadelphia was important to us in a variety of ways,” Ruben Amaro said. “He fills a need at third base, clearly, but I think more importantly he brings the kind of character, the championship attitude that we’re looking for in a player and in the people we try to acquire here.”

Young echoed the sentiment. He said the right and expected things about how he knew a lot of the Phillies and how they’re all “wired the same way” and how their mutual “postseason experience” is “appealing” to him. That’s all fine. But the operative part of what Amaro said was the bit about Young filling a need at third base.

Young has played 358 games at third base in his career, but last season he spent much of his time as the Rangers' designated hitter. In 2012, Young played 25 games at third for Texas. The year before, he played 40 games there. His last full season at third was in 2010, when he played 155 games and had a .950 fielding percentage.

The obvious question is whether Young – who spent the offseason taking grounders and working on the longer throw from third to first – can scrape away some of the defensive rust he might have collected. He didn’t seem too concerned about that. But it’s spring training, and they haven’t had any games yet, and players don’t generally stress over much at this point.

“I’ve played it before,” Young said. “I have experience playing third base. I’ve had a full season load there. I’ve played in the World Series [at] third base before. As far as re-acclimating myself, that’s nothing a little hard work can’t fix.”

His glove will be important this year, but the Phillies need his bat just as much. A year ago, the Fightins were 15th in baseball in team batting average, 17th in on-base percentage, 17th in slugging percentage, 18th in home runs and 19th in runs.

Young has a career line of .301/.347/.444. Two years ago, he had a .338 average, led the American League in hits and added 106 RBIs.

Last season wasn’t nearly as productive. Young went .277/.312/.370 with eight home runs, 27 doubles and 67 RBIs. September was far better, however. In the final month, Young hit .313 with four homers and seven doubles. He called that stretch “encouraging” and said he was “chomping at the bit” to get to spring training to work on his swing and his fielding.

Before he ended Friday’s interview at Bright House Field, one reporter (OK, fine, it was Howard Eskin) asked Young what he termed “an important question.” Now that Young is with the Phillies, will he “give up being a Cowboys fan?” Young’s reply was priceless.

“You suck,” he said to Eskin (jokingly).

Young should fit in just fine.

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