CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Michael Young is on the field again, getting regular at-bats, playing every day at the same position and feeling like he can be a key contributor for a team he expects to play deep into October.
He is rejuvenated.
"It's a welcome change," he said of his new surroundings. "This is just the perfect scenario."
The Phillies acquired Young in December, when they traded right-handers Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla to the Texas Rangers. They needed an everyday third baseman and the Rangers had informed Young's agent he would play less than he played last season when he was relegated to being a designated hitter and utility infielder. Young, who was the unofficial captain and undisputed team leader in Texas, had set franchise records for games played, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples and total bases, but he had become expendable.
So Young accepted the trade to Philadelphia, leaving behind his legacy in Texas and opening the 2013 season with a new team and new fans whose only familiarity with him is what they have seen on television.
Imagine Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins starting fresh in a new organization after building an impressive resume in Philadelphia.
Young is in that exact situation.
Kind of strange, isn't it?
"It's a little different," Young said. "But like I said, it's a welcome change. I loved my time in Texas. I felt like I had a great connection with the fans. I feel like I still do. I don't think that will ever go away. But at the same time I'm looking forward to getting up to Philly and playing as hard as I possibly can. I love the atmosphere there in that ballpark. I think my style of play is very conducive to what Philly fans want. They want guys to play their hearts out. That's what I know I'm going to be able to do."
Young has impressed since his arrival. He has worked tirelessly to improve his defense at third base, which has gotten rave reviews from Mike Schmidt and Phillies third-base coach and infield instructor Ryne Sandberg. His teammates have applauded his attitude and work ethic.
People are already referring to him as a leader in the clubhouse.
"He's always talking about the game," outfielder Domonic Brown said. "We've done a good job of bringing guys in that fit the description of the 'Phillies Way' of how we do things. He just comes in and fits that script. He's just a baseball guy, period. Point blank, no excuses, just go out there and get it done. I like to watch guys when they go 0-for-4, see how they act. And this guy comes in and he's the same guy every day, 0-for-4, 4-for-4, whatever. That's how I try to frame my game."
"What a lot of people don't realize and I haven't heard it," Schmidt said, "Michael Young could retire tomorrow and he would be a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame. He's probably two Michael Young years away from being a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I don't know if anybody has thought about that. I don't know what his career hitting numbers are, but he's a little like Derek Jeter, is he not? He's that kind of player and he's had that kind of career. Obviously it's not playing in New York, but if he played in New York, imagine what people would be saying about Michael Young's career? Somebody would have mentioned the Hall of Fame a long time ago."
Young will be playing third base regularly for the first time since 2009-10. He is not known as a defensive whiz, but he has been putting in extra time to prove he is more than capable.
"I think things have gone well," Sandberg said. "He came into camp in very good shape, ready to work. My strategy for him was to get him game ready as soon as possible. That meant extra work in the morning, which he is all about. It's about covering all the plays at third base, not just routine fungos to get loose. He was out there getting dirty, really seeing where his range was, reacting side to side. I think the biggest thing this spring has been just focusing on one position. I think he's gained a lot of confidence with that. He's really become comfortable being at third base.
"I expect him to have a very good year over there. Good range. Above-average arm. Real quick feet for a third baseman. That's what I've seen in the games to this point. His mobility is very good. I've seen him react to balls down the line very well. I think he's a good glove guy."
Young has swung a pretty good bat in Spring Training, too. He is looking to bounce back from the worst season of his career offensively. He hit .277 with 27 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 67 RBIs, a .312 on-base percentage and a .370 slugging percentage. It was his lowest batting average since 2002 (.262), lowest on-base percentage since 2002 (.308) and lowest slugging percentage of his career.
He thinks he can bounce back. The Phillies are counting on it.
"Come Opening Day I expect things to be business as usual," Young said. "Coming to a new team, it took me a day to get adjusted, then I was back in the groove. It's baseball. I love to play ball. I love to compete. Once I got my uniform on it became all about working hard and getting ready for the season. Everything has gone exactly the way I hoped it would go. I knew the guys in here. I knew the way they were wired. They've been everything I could have hoped for and more. They're a bunch of guys committed to winning. They know how to win. They know how to go deep into the postseason. It's in their DNA. We know how to do it."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less