NEW YORK | Though his role with the Washington Nationals in the season's last 2 1/2 weeks is unclear and his first start since the All-Star break has yet to happen, first baseman Dmitri Young returned to the team's clubhouse on Tuesday happy to focus on something as simple as baseball again.
Young rejoined the Nationals for the start of a two-game series with the Mets after missing nearly two months while battling diabetes and trying to work himself into shape.
He spent the bulk of the time before Tuesday's game in the training room, receiving treatment for a sore left quadriceps that developed while he ran out a ball during his rehab stint with Class A Vermont. That was the only thing bothering Young, though the effects of the last two months remain apparent.
"It's definitely been tough," Young said. "I thank the Nationals for giving me the time to be able to go take care of that."
Manager Manny Acta said Young would get occasional at-bats throughout the rest of the season because the 34-year-old doesn't need at-bats to prove himself like a younger player would. Rather, the goal is to keep Young fresh and on the right path headed into next season.
"It was very nice to see him," Acta said. "We're just happy that he has it under control. We're going to move forward. This is just a couple of weeks left here. Hopefully during the offseason he's able to learn more about his disease and show up in camp ready to go."
Young, who was diagnosed with diabetes in fall 2006, has experienced off-and-on struggles with it since then. He was placed on the disabled list July 19 after complaining of light-headedness in the team's first post-All-Star break series in Atlanta. He then worked out with the team's Gulf Coast League affiliate in Viera, Fla., after he met with doctors in the District to get his blood sugar under control.
The 2007 National League comeback player of the year said the process reminded him how diligent he needs to be in taking care of the disease.
"You've definitely got to be serious about it and do exactly what your doctors say," Young said. "Or else things can happen. Because you didn't control it, it starts controlling you."
Ayala happy with Mets
A month ago, Luis Ayala seemed like the least likely member of the Nationals' roster to find himself an integral part of a pennant race. But an Aug. 17 trade that barely moved the needle on baseball's intrigue scale, coupled with an injury to Mets closer Billy Wagner, has thrust the once-struggling reliever into the Mets' closer role.
And the 30-year-old, whose 5.77 ERA with the Nationals launched him out of the setup spot and into mop-up duty, has responded in New York. He has five saves in 10 appearances and a 2.70 ERA with the Mets.
Acta, who saw Ayala set up and occasionally close games with the Expos, expected the reliever to rebound. And Ayala, who becomes a free agent after the year, said he harbored no ill will against the Nationals for not making him a closer.
"It's part of baseball. They know why, in the past, they didn't put me in that role," Ayala said. "Maybe there's a situation to come back. You never know. I had some good moments over there. And now the present is the Mets. So I say thank you for the trade."