Young, A's have been a perfect fit
Pitching coach has worked well with variety of pitchers
OAKLAND -- The A's entered the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Rangers on Friday with the best team ERA in the Majors at 3.21, and while fifth-year pitching coach Curt Young isn't one to toot his own horn, his pupils are more than happy to laud their laid-back leader.
The 2008 staff features hurlers at a variety of stages in their careers -- from established longtime veteran relievers, to newcomers getting their first crack at working in a big league rotation, and everything in between.
Closer Huston Street, the 2005 American League Rookie of the Year during Young's second season with A's, suggested that the fit between staff and coach is near-perfect. He also noted that Young, 48, has managed to develop his own style while developing Oakland's young arms.
"I've definitely noticed over the last two or three years that he's gotten more assertive," Street said Friday. "When he first got here [in 2004], they had guys like [Tim] Hudson, [Mark] Mulder and [Barry] Zito, who were obviously well-established and already had their routine. So you almost have to leave guys like that alone, because routine is everything for a pitcher. But since my first year, we've kind of gotten younger as a staff, and [Young] seems more confident about stepping in.
"But what's great about him is that he does it without being overbearing. ... He's not making adjustments every pitch, every game. He picks his spots, and his timing is excellent."
Young, who pitched for the A's for nine seasons (1983-91 and 1993) and was a starter for Oakland's 1989 World Series champions, didn't dispute Street's contention that he's grown as a coach, adding that his playing experience is a plus when it comes to timing.
"I like to think I know guys' games and personalities," Young said while walking to the bullpen to oversee a pregame throwing session. "You make your suggestions here and there, but you can't be doing it constantly. As a [former] pitcher myself, I know you don't have to talk all the time."
The A's staff is loaded with youth. Among the six relievers on the 25-man roster, only one is older than 27, and three of them, including Street, are 24. Only one of the five current starters -- Justin Duchscherer, 30 -- is older than 27, and Joe Blanton and is the only one who entered the year with more than one season as a full-fledged member of a Major League rotation.
But don't pigeonhole Young as someone who works best with greenhorns. The elder statesman of the staff, Alan Embree, also loves working with Young, against whom he played during Young's lone big league season not spent in Oakland.
"Yankees-Indians, 1992," said Embree, who was a rookie with Cleveland at the time. "I've played against a bunch of guys who've coached me, and there's a respect factor there, definitely. ... What I like about Curt is that he coaches to the individual. He doesn't try to make it one big assembly line."
Street also appreciates that aspect of Young's approach, saying their relationship is more of a partnership than a dictatorship.
"Some pitching coaches want to make you just like him," Street said. "With Curt, he'll make his suggestions when he feels it's the right time, but he lets you have your input, too."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.