VIERA, Fla. — While the rest of his Washington Nationals teammates were enjoying their first off-day of the spring, Chris Young took his 6-foot-10 frame to the mound at Space Coast Stadium to face minor league hitters.
Young threw 41 pitches (26 strikes) in two innings of work against some of the Nationals’ minor leaguers. He gave up two unearned runs and sprinkled a few hard-hits among the outs and some spotty defense. He struck out one, 2012 fourth-round pick Brandon Miller.
“I felt all right,” Young said. “Really, first competitive situation for me in spring and it’s just a process. It’s step one. There’s a lot of things to work on, a lot of improvements to be made, but that’s what spring training’s for and I’ll get there.”
Young said he wasn’t sure how many offspeed pitches he threw, but he knew he threw a handful of sliders and changeups. It looked like he threw two sliders to shortstop Stephen Perez, another 2012 draftee (8th round), in an at-bat that ultimately ended with him popping out to foul ground on the third base side.
It was a mixed bag, with regard to the offspeed pitches.
“There were some that were good and a couple that just didn’t have the finish that I’d like,” he said. “But it’s something that, as the arm strength comes, arm speed, the fastball command gets better. You get the feel for the release point, everything comes off that, and then it’s easier to get the feel for those pitches.”
Young gave up four hits and the second inning was ended after his fourth, a single up the middle, with the right-hander at 41 of what presumably was a 45-pitch limit. Young is a high-ball pitcher, mostly, and that was evident on Monday. He said he tries to get ahead of batters with pitches down in the zone and then expand it up as he goes. “With the height and deception, it plays to my advantage,” he said.
He’s hoping that, with time and strength, he’ll be able to continue to sharpen everything. Young did say he was ready to pitch on Saturday, March 9, when he will start for the Nationals against the Marlins.
“I don’t think anybody feels locked in at this point,” Young said. “There’s always stuff to work on and certainly as the arm strength comes and mechanics get in sync, fastball command will come around and from there it’s easier to get the offspeed pitches, but it’s just a gradual process.”
Standing in a mostly empty clubhouse Monday afternoon, readying himself to go workout now that his start was complete, Young admitted that the process is something he has to remind himself to appreciate.
After dealing with shoulder issues for several years, it’s different for him to remember to measure progress this way, unlike the way they do in rehab, and to try not to rush things.
“You lose track sometimes of where you’ve been and what I’ve gone through,” he said. “Certainly, from a competitive standpoint, I want to pick right up where I left off. At the end of last season, I finished really strong. That’s my mindset – I’m going to build on that. And then you come out and you’re not as sharp as you’d like and the arm strength is still building. It just takes time.
“But perspective of where I’ve been and the rehab – at this point last year, I wasn’t even (throwing) off a mound yet — it’s a night-and-day difference, but I’m not satisfied. I want to get back to being as good as I can be. I think it’s sometimes good to remind yourself of that. At the same time, as a competitor, you have expectations to be sharp and to be locked in right away.”