Young adds to winning atmosphere in Los Angeles
Seven-time All-Star ready to play a backup role in Dodgers' postseason run
ATLANTA -- Michael Young has had to adjust to a part-time role with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His full-time mindset, however, hasn't changed one iota.
That is why the Dodgers wanted Young so much for the final month of their regular-season push to the National League West title. And that's why when the Dodgers firm up their roster for the NL Division Series against the Braves that opens Thursday night at Turner Field (8:30 p.m. ET on TBS), Young's name will be on the lineup card, although it will be listed at the bottom, along with the other backup players.
"At the end of August, I look for a veteran who you feel can get that one key hit, make that one key play for you down the stretch, a guy who understands the dynamics of a pennant race," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti. "[Four] years ago, it was Ronnie Belliard. Seven years ago, it was Marlon Anderson. You don't know who is going to get hurt, so you want someone who is versatile, someone who has been down the road.''
This year, it is Young. He is that throwback. He likes to play every day. He likes to get every at-bat.
Most of all, though, Young likes to win, which is why he was excited to waive his no-trade clause and approve the Aug. 31 trade to the Dodgers when the Phillies initially approached him about the opportunity.
No offense to the folks in Philly. Young was excited when he was dealt to Philadelphia last offseason by Texas, where he had spent his first 12 full big league seasons. He knew he no longer fit in the Rangers' plans, and he knew the Phils had a championship pedigree, too.
These Phillies, however, were sidetracked by aging and ailing star players. They never made any noise in the NL East. They made an in-season decision to change direction, replacing manager Charlie Manuel with Ryne Sandberg, and then looked for places to move veterans such as Young. When the Phils dealt Young, they were already 20 1/2 games back of the division-leading Braves.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, were 10 1/2 games up on the second-place D-backs in the NL West.
"The last month has been a lot of fun,'' Young said of his tenure in Tinseltown. "The second the possibility of being dealt [to the Dodgers] arose, I was all in for it. I wanted to get to Los Angeles as soon as possible.''
Once Young arrived, the waiting game began.
The Dodgers had Mark Ellis at second base, Adrian Gonzalez at first, Juan Uribe at third and Hanley Ramirez at short. Young, who had been the face of the Rangers and started all 34 of their postseason games the last three seasons, was insurance. His role was to provide veteran protection if a need arose.
Young did appear in 21 of the Dodgers' September games. However, he only made 10 starts in the 27 games the Dodgers played . Those 17 games in which Young didn't start were one more game than the 16 he had not started out of the 486 regular-season games the three-time postseason-bound Rangers played in the previous three seasons.
No surprise, said Young.
"It was a no-brainer," Young said of coming to the Dodgers. "When [I was asked to waive the no-trade clause], they told me what the role would be. But it did not matter if I was going to play every day like I did in Texas or not. I just want the manager to know he has the option that he can put me in any situation and I'm going to respond.''
Young has, after all, been an everyday player at all four infield positions, and he was an All-Star as both a shortstop and a third baseman. His 10 starts with the Dodgers saw him get time at all four infield positions in September. Young is not spectacular, but he is steady, and he did hit .314 for the Dodgers.
It's not unlike Belliard, who helped the Dodgers claim the NL West in 2009, hitting .351 in the 24 games after he was acquired from the Nationals, and Anderson, who not only hit .375, but had seven home runs and 15 RBIs in 25 games after Los Angeles added him from Washington to help claim the NL Wild Card in '06.
"You never know when you are going to need someone capable of doing that something special,'' said Colletti.
Young is capable of delivering.
At the age of 36, Young is a step slower, but he still has the foundation of a player who has been a seven-time All-Star, won the 2005 American League batting title and '06 All-Star Game MVP, earned an AL Gold Glove Award at shortstop in '08, and is a career .300 hitter.
Young also still has a passion that too often has faded for a veteran player.
"This game doesn't owe me anything,'' said Young. "I owe this game everything. I love the competition. I love to be on the field.''
And Young likes being with the Dodgers, even if he's more an insurance policy than the franchise foundation.
"They had a lot in place here, and I don't want to disrupt it,'' said Young. "I want to add to it.''
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.