It is no secret that the Seattle Mariners are scrambling a bit to fill out their rotation as spring training winds down. Right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker have both battled injuries that have pushed back their work in spring to a point where neither will likely be ready to start big league games for the first 4 to 6 weeks of the season. Seattle looked to be ready to hand one of the rotation spots to veteran lefty Randy Wolf to open the year, but when the M's asked Wolf to sign a 45-day advanced-consent relief form he refused and instead asked for his release. That followed up Seattle cutting ties with right-hander Scott Baker earlier in the week.
Luckily for Seattle, around the same time the Washington Nationals had informed veteran right-hander Chris Young that he would not make their rotation, and after some consideration, Young, too asked for his release. Young, who had reportedly been generating trade interest recently, will step right in to Wolf's spot for Seattle and he's scheduled to start the pre-season finale for the M's on Saturday against the Rockies.
Young didn't pitch in the big leagues last year and has thrown only 337 1/3 innings over the last six seasons as he's battled numerous arm troubles. Zduriencik acknowledged the risk with Young, but thinks that the right-hander is a strong add for his club, telling The News Tribune's Bob Dutton, "The medical came back that he was fine. Our park is a good fit for him. We were looking for a veteran-type of guy to come in and help with the young group of kids we have. I think he fits."
Young underwent surgery to relieve thoratic outlet syndrome in June and some reports had his velocity back up to 88 miles-per-hour in spring outings. That same surgery is what Jeremy Bonderman -- who pitched for Seattle some in 2013 -- Josh Beckett, Chris Carpenter, Matt Harrison, Shaun Marcum and others have undergone in recent seasons. While results have been varied for pitchers after the surgery, Young also had what is called pectoralis minor tenotomy to relieve other nerve issues around the shoulder, but he told the Washington Post this spring that his shoulder was feeling like it did before the injuries started to mount on him. "My shoulder feels like it did five, six years ago," Young said. "I'm really excited about it. I expect it to stay that way. It's the best it's felt in a long time. I want to get back to being the pitcher I can be."
The pitcher that Young can be is definitely someone who could help the Mariners. Waiting for Iwakuma and Walker to get fully healthy and ready to go 90-100 pitches a start could take some time and the rest of the rotation after Felix Hernandez looks very young and inexperienced. Young was an All-Star for the San Diego Padres back in 2007 and allowed just 6.7 hits-per-nine for them from 2006-2008. A fly ball pitcher, the fact that Young enjoyed so much success at Petco Park could give the Mariners an idea of how he'll fare in Safeco should he return to form. Although the dimensions changed prior to 2013 at Safeco, those two parks have played fairly close to one another over the last several seasons. The 0.51 GB/FB rate that Young owns career could become troubling if Seattle runs some Logan Morrison/Corey Hart outfield combos out there, but McClendon is likely much smarter than that.
Young is primarily a fastball/slider pitcher, using those two pitches more than 80% of the time for his career. If the velocity can regularly get back up in the 87-88 mph range like it was back in his heyday that would be a plus, but Young has never really relied on velocity. Some other recent reports had his velocity more in the 82 mph range. That may sound like a red flag, but velocity isn't what led Young to success in the past. Standing 6-foot-10 and pitching from a high three-quarters delivery, there is a lot of deception in there. That is evidenced by his relatively high strikeout rate (7.6-per-nine for his career) and by the fact that he's had a higher percentage of infield pop-ups hit against him than any other starting pitcher in baseball (15.5%) since breaking into the major leagues. And he's struck out nine in his 10 1/3 innings so far this spring.
While the injury history for Young is certainly something to give you pause, he told The Washington Post: "I don't have any questions about my arm. It's healthy, and it's only going to get stronger." The Mariners hope that he's right and that 2014 can be the year that Chris Young gets back to being a very good, deceptive major league pitcher.
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