Opinion

Chris Young embracing relief assignment with Royals as season approaches

Royals starter Chris Young pitches against the Padres during Friday evening’s spring training baseball game in Peoria, Ariz.
Royals starter Chris Young pitches against the Padres during Friday evening’s spring training baseball game in Peoria, Ariz. The Kansas City Star

Chris Young has appeared in 291 games, between the majors and the minors, for seven different organizations across 14 seasons in professional baseball. In only one of those games did he operate as something other than a starting pitcher.

On April 6, 2014, Young spun a pair of scoreless innings in relief for the Mariners. This is the sum total of his experience in the bullpen, a space he will occupy as a member of the Royals. Kansas City signed Young as a 6-10 insurance policy, one with a $675,000 base salary, for their starting rotation. He will serve as a middle reliever until then.

Young has embraced the role, even if he is still getting used to it. He admitted he was unsure how he would adapt once the season begins.

"Look, it’s a performance-based game," Young said on Friday night. "I’ve got to perform. That’s all that matters. Whatever they ask of me, I’ll be prepared for mentally, physically. I’ll be ready to go. And take the ball and give the best effort I have."

On Friday night against the Padres, one of Young’s seven former employers, he spun three solid innings and impressed manager Ned Yost. Young started the game and struck out three. His fastball velocity resided in the upper 80s, which can still be devastating given his height, deception and offspeed arsenal. Rival scouts rave about his intellect and acumen on the mound.

"You watch his slider, and getting a chance to see him up close, you see why we could never hit him," Yost said. "That slider is nasty. It’s just a very late break, a very sharp break. Looks like a fastball and then it just darts. Really, really good outing for him."

Young went 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA for Seattle last season. He won the game’s Comeback Player of the Year award. But he faded in the second half, and his medical history is troubling. Young has undergone multiple procedures on his right shoulder, and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in 2013.

Young will make at least one more lengthy appearance in the Cactus League. Yost wants him to be able to handle a five-inning assignment once the season begins. Then Young can add to his brief resume as a reliever.

His role, he insists, remains the same as always, even if the method of his arrival is somewhat different.

"Just to take the ball and get outs, however that is," Young said. "Just as a reliever, long relief, starting if that comes up. It’s to take the ball and get outs. You have to perform. It’s a performance-based game. That’s my job."

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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