VIERA, Fla. — Chris Young didn’t sign with the Washington Nationals until Feb. 21, nine days after pitchers and catchers had reported to camp and begun the slow process of building toward the season. So the 6-foot-10 right-hander is a bit behind the rest of the group when it comes to his progress.
Young did take an important step toward being game-ready on Wednesday when he threw his first live batting practice of the spring.
“It’s a start,” Young said Thursday afternoon. “To have a hitter in there gives you a little bit of a frame of reference, idea of the strike zone. It’s a little challenging with the cage and the screen there but nonetheless it’s the first step toward a real environment. It’s just part of the process.”
Young faced a group that included catchers Wilson Ramos and Jhonatan Solano, and infielder Will Rhymes — who actually may have presented the biggest challenge, being that he is more than a foot shorter than the supremely tall Young.
He did not want to put a percentage on how close he felt or how much effort he was expounding in the session, given how gradual the process is.
“You try to go at it with a good intensity,” Young said of his live batting practice session. “But as the games and competitive situations come along the intensity increases and you sort of get more and more into it.”
The Nationals plan to get Young into a game on March 3, following Ross Detwiler to the mound against the Cardinals. Young said he felt fairly ready to take that step.
Young, who has an opt-out clause in his contract that he can exercise on March 24 if he does not think he will make the major league roster and does not want to go to the minor leagues, will then take over Detwiler’s spot in the rotation as the left-hander will leave camp to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.