VIERA, Fla. — Chris Young was pleased with the progress he made with his fastball command in his second major league spring training start and the Nationals were equally pleased to see the 6-foot-10 right-hander continue his improvement.
“Today was progress for sure, a step in the right direction” Young said after he tossed four innings against the Houston Astros and allowed just one run off four hits and two walks while striking out three and getting his pitch count up to 72.
“Young was real good,” added manager Davey Johnson. “He had a good outing. He’s good to have here. I know when we signed him, I said ‘That’s good cause we can’t hit him.’ But I thought he was a lot better today the second time out than the first time. I thought everything was sharper.”
The question for Young, of course, is what it all means in the context of his future with the organization.
Young, who signed with the Nationals almost two weeks after the Nationals’ pitchers and catchers had reported to camp, has an out clause in his minor league contract that he can exercise on March 24.
With 10 days to go until that date the Nationals’ starting rotation is full and, at this point, all healthy. That means that the chances of Young making the Nationals out of camp are slim, through no fault of his own and not based on his performance.
“It depends on the health,” Johnson admitted. “I’m real comfortable with my starting staff. That’s the one area where we’re real shallow, starting pitching (depth). We’ll see what happens.”
The Nationals would obviously love for Young to stay, go to Triple-A and serve as a security blanket for them, much in the way John Lannan did in 2012. But Lannan did not have a choice. Young does.
At this point, Young said he is not worried about what the end of camp will bring, choosing instead to focus on getting himself ready for the season — regardless of where that season will take him.
“To me, I’m not thinking about auditioning,” he said. “I’m just focused on going out and making good pitches. I know what I’m capable of doing when I feel healthy. I feel healthy, I feel strong, I feel like arm issues are behind me and I’m excited for a great season. So that’s my focus – on preparing for a season, preparing the same way I always do. I’m not caught up in results at this point. Just physically feeling good and just going to hone in on the things I need to improve on and be ready for opening day, whenever that comes.”
There’s a good chance, though, that another team might be willing to offer Young the spot on a major league team that the Nationals cannot. The market for that has not entirely developed, though, and there are still free agents like Kyle Lohse available, so it’s difficult to handicap.
Johnson, however, said he could easily see another team feeling Young could help them in the major leagues.
“I do,” he said. “I like him. He’s a smart pitcher. He locates the ball well. He knows what he has to do to be successful. And I like his repertoire. And I think today was more of an indication how he can pitch. The first day he was a little rough, but that’s to be expected. He was a lot sharper today, and I’m sure next time he’ll be even sharper.”