C. Young on right track in full-time role
Mets outfielder playing every day after platooning last season
NEW YORK -- In a possible season of redemption for Chris Young, the Mets outfielder had a breakout game on Monday night at Yankee Stadium in his first look at the Subway Series.
Young's two-run, eighth-inning homer into the far reaches of the left-field bleachers off Yankees reliever Preston Claiborne sent the Mets on to a crazy 9-7 victory. Young, who also added a ground-rule double, started the season on the disabled list because of a right quad injury and is just now rounding into shape. He went into the game hitting .230, and after a 2-for-4 night, he left it batting .244.
Traded by the D-backs to the A's prior to last season, Young spent 2013 platooning in the Oakland outfield. Now he's back in his comfort zone, starting every day for the Mets.
"It's back to normal as far as the Arizona days," Young said before a game in which he hit his third homer of the season. "I'm glad to get the opportunity to play every day and find a groove."
Young made the most of it on Monday night as the lead swung back and forth in front of a high-intensity crowd of 46,517. He played across the street in 2007 with the D-backs, the next-to-last year at the old Stadium, but it was his first experience in the new ballpark. Young was on the disabled list when the A's played there last season.
"I played here with the D-backs, but it wasn't this kind of atmosphere. It was like another level, like a big college football game, like a big party going on in the outfield," Young said about Monday night's game. "I was happy to see that orange section showing the Mets some love. I was happy to see them out there."
It was a curious three-way trade just after the 2012 season that shipped Young from the D-backs to Oakland, further clogging up a crowded A's outfield situation that at the time also included Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp and Seth Smith. Under those circumstances, A's manager Bob Melvin was forced to strategically juggle his lineup based on the pitching matchups.
A frustrating season for the right-handed-hitting Young reached its apex against the Tigers in the American League Division Series. Detroit started four right-handers, including a very dominant Justin Verlander twice, and won the round in five games. Young, a .326 lifetime postseason hitter in 2007 and '11 with the D-backs, never was even given an at-bat.
"That was weird," Young said. "I've been to the postseason a couple of times and had pretty good success. It caught me off guard a little bit. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. It was disappointing for me as a player. You live for those kinds of situations. To be in the postseason and be sitting there watching the entire time, that's tough to do especially if you're 100 percent healthy. That's something I'm not too happy about. But things happen."
Young was quick not to blame it on Melvin, who he played for in both Oakland and Arizona.
"I love Bo Mel. Bo Mel is an amazing manager and amazing person," he said. "It's a different system over there and they do well. I guess it didn't fit for me in the playoffs facing so many righties."
Young hit .200 for the A's in 107 regular-season games, coming off a 2012 season in Arizona that he played with an injured shoulder. That didn't stop the Mets from signing Young this past Nov. 26 to a one-year, free-agent contract worth $7.25 million.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson viewed the 30-year-old Young as a reliable veteran who could play the outfield and help a young and developing team largely because of his postseason experience.
"No. 1, we liked his athleticism, his ability to play center field, which was a need for us because we weren't sure of [Juan] Lagares and his offense," Alderson said. "That's still something that's in the works. Offensively, he's got some power. He's selective at the plate. He does strike out. He hasn't always had a high batting average, but he's been productive. The real question for us is can he hit right-handed pitching consistently. That's what he wanted a chance to do, so we're giving him that chance and we'll see where it takes us."
It sent the Mets into the stratosphere on Monday night as Young, a .225 lifetime hitter against right-handers, took the right-handed-throwing Claiborne deep. It came on a slider that Claiborne hung out over the plate. The double was also off a righty, Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda.
"That's what I've always been used to," Young said. "Last year was the first year I didn't play against right-handers on a regular basis. Every year I was in Arizona, I played against everybody every day. It wasn't anything I ever thought much about. If you're going good, you'll square righties or lefties up the same way, I think."
That's the way it was for Young on Monday night, at least. He squared up a pair of righties just fine. But as Young is well aware, one game does not a season make.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.