VIERA, Fla. — The ascension of first baseman Dmitri Young became complete yesterday when the Washington Nationals optioned first baseman Larry Broadway to Class AAA Columbus and invited Young to their spring training camp.
Young, whom the Nationals signed to a minor league deal early in camp, started at first base yesterday against the Florida Marlins at Space Coast Stadium. Young doubled and walked in three at-bats.
Broadway was sent down because Nationals general manager Jim Bowden and manager Manny Acta determined he had lost the competition with Travis Lee. With only 10 days until camp breaks, the team wanted to give Young a shot in his place.
“It’s important to get Dmitri the at-bats now with Travis and let the competition continue between the two of them,” Bowden said. “Larry swung OK at times but just didn’t do the damage we were hoping him to.”
Broadway once was considered one of the organization’s top prospects. He went 7-for-21 (.333) in 11 Grapefruit League games but only once hit for extra bases.
“They said they didn’t see enough power out of me in this spring,” Broadway said. “They wanted to see what Dmitri had to offer. I felt that this was actually one of my better springs.”
If Young makes the team, he will be guaranteed $500,000 this season. With regular first baseman Nick Johnson expected to open the season on the disabled list as he recovers from a broken right leg suffered late last season, the Nationals are desperately looking for a capable replacement — preferably someone with a little pop.
“That’s what you look for from a corner position, especially with Nick out,” Acta said. “There’s just 10 days. We’ve got to give Dmitri a shot; we’ve got to see him.”
The 33-year-old Young, who has a .289 average with 154 home runs in 11 major league seasons, was released by the Detroit Tigers in September in what was a tumultuous year.
He faced misdemeanor domestic violence charges in May stemming from a confrontation with his then-girlfriend. In June, he failed to appear for a pretrial hearing on the incident and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. He then pled no contest to the charges and was placed on probation for one year. Later, Young revealed he had been battling alcoholism and spent 30 days in a treatment facility.
On Thursday during a split-squad game with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Young went 2-for-3 with a home run off Dodgers right-hander Jason Schmidt. Young had been working out at the Nationals’ accelerated minor league camp to get into playing shape. According to Bowden, Young has shed 3 percent of his body fat.
“It was actually quite the ride,” Young said of minor league camp. “It was a very enjoyable experience. I was real comfortable because a lot of the coaches I had either played with or played against. Bob Boone and Tim Foli were coaches when I was in Cincinnati.”
Young said minor league camp was a chance for him to pass along his knowledge and that he fed off the minor leaguers’ energy.
“Those kids down there saw me come in every day to work,” Young said. “When they see that from somebody who has been in the big leagues for as long as I have, they know that they have to do the same thing. But at the same time they know it’s a fun experience, too.”
Young said the experience also made him appreciate his position. And now he has a chance to play in the District, where Young said he spent the first four years of his life while his father worked in the Army.