Healthy Young's one-year pact with Mets official
Signing of hurler likely to complete club's offseason spending
NEW YORK -- Chris Young was not on San Diego's active roster when the Padres visited Citi Field last June. But he was traveling with the team. And he was actively engaged.
"I thought to myself, 'It would be a lot of fun to play here,'" Young said.
Months later, at the end of yet another injury-plagued season, Young finally made it back to the big leagues. His audition for free agency was impressive, prompting the Mets to take a gamble.
"It worked out that way, and I'm just really thrilled to be here," Young said Thursday, shortly after the Mets officially announced his signing to a one-year deal. "I can't wait to get started."
The Mets on Thursday also officially announced the signing of outfielder Scott Hairston to a Major League contract. To make room for those two, they designated outfielder Jason Pridie and right-hander Tobi Stoner for assignment. Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, who are expected in camp next month, do not appear to be among the candidates.
But right now, the Mets are less concerned with subtractions than they are with the addition of Young, a 6-foot-10 right-hander with a Princeton education, a high-80s fastball and a strong command of his repertoire. General manager Sandy Alderson first met Young during his days as CEO in San Diego, and came away impressed.
"From my standpoint, [he was] our big-game pitcher when he was available to us," Alderson said. "We really believe that Chris can make a major contribution to us. His approach to the game, his work ethic, as well as his exceptional results in the past, all give him a big upside with us -- particularly in this ballpark."
The ballpark was a factor for Young as well -- and not only because of its aesthetics. A fly-ball specialist, Young stands to benefit more than most pitchers from Citi's spacious dimensions, which have a habit of turning potential home runs into deep fly-ball outs.
"It's something obviously that I thought about, but it wasn't a big, defining factor for me," Young said. "Really, I never change the way I pitch based on where I'm pitching, and I never will. I feel like you can have good ballgames in hitters' ballparks and you can have bad ballgames in pitchers' ballparks. It really comes down to execution of pitches."
And health. A series of arm injuries over the past three seasons has included both the typical (a right shoulder strain last year, a labrum tear in 2009) and the freakish (an Albert Pujols line drive off his forehead in '08). But Young on Thursday passed his physical in New York, finalizing his contract. He feels healthy. He seems healthy. And at 31 years old, he still has a chance to resurrect what once had been an impressive start to his career.
From 2005-08, Young ranked among the top young arms in the game, compiling a 39-26 record and 3.66 ERA for the Rangers and Padres. He averaged roughly eight strikeouts and three walks per nine innings.
But injuries haunted him until the end of last season, when Young, in effect, pressed the restart button on his career. Pitching for the Padres down the stretch, he allowed two earned runs in 20 innings, improving his velocity with each and every outing.
"Unfortunately, the clock sort of ran out of time and I didn't have the proper time that I needed to build up my arm strength," Young said. "But I felt like I was confident. I was making progress and I was very happy with my mechanics, which is a big part of being efficient and healthy."
Now, he'll have a chance to continue that work at Citi Field -- a place he's already come to enjoy.
"The energy in that stadium is the best in the Major Leagues," Young said. "I'm excited to experience that."