Dubbed “Smasher” by manager Torey Lovullo, D-backs utility man Andrew Young is living up to his persona early in 2021.
With his fifth-inning, pinch-hit home run in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Marlins, Young upped his season hit total to four. His other three hits have also been home runs, giving him four in 10 at-bats.
“Pinch-hitting is very, very difficult," Lovullo said. "He’s seemed to figure out how to walk to home plate very prepared in those situations, and is going to drive the baseball that he wants to square up and do damage with.”
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Young is one of five players in the past 50 years to have his first four hits of a season all be home runs. The others were: Robinson Canó (2016), Trevor Story (2016), Ellis Burks (1997) and Rob Deer (1992). Deer's first five hits were all homers, making him the only player in the modern era (since 1900) to accomplish the feat.
“The thing that stands out to me about Andrew is the amount of reps and the intensity of those reps that he’s showing us during his extra work and early work," Lovullo said. "It’s hard when you’re not playing baseball games to simulate game speed, but he’s finding a way to stay as active as he possibly can on defense. Obviously, doing the same thing from an offensive standpoint.”
The 27-year-old Young credits standing in on bullpen sessions and hitting against a machine as keys in keeping his timing and preparing him for when his name is called.
“I do practice hitting home runs in BP and off the tee, and I think there's something to be said about practicing hitting home runs and hitting home runs,” Young said. “I'm not a believer in spraying the ball the other way, so I always try to kind of elevate the ball, and it seems to have been working out so far.”
Young, who was recalled from Triple-A Reno after first baseman Christian Walker went on the injured list, got the start in Thursday’s 5-1 loss, batting fifth and playing second base. He went 0-for-3 with a walk.
“I want to give him this opportunity to get the at-bats,” Lovullo said of the decision. “Out of fairness to him and that hard work and the results he’s been getting offensively, I want to, obviously, hope for the best, because I believe in what he’s done and I believe in what he’s ready for.”
• Right-hander Taylor Widener, who has been on the injured list since April 28 with a right groin strain, threw a simulated game at Salt River Fields on Thursday.
Per Lovullo, Widener tossed 3 1/3 innings on 51 pitches and participated in pitchers' fielding practice after the outing. Widener is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday, with the next step being a rehab assignment.
“We’ll make sure he comes in [Friday], feels OK and get that bullpen in,” Lovullo said. “Long term, hopefully, gets to that point in five days to get on a real mound.”
• Outfielder Ketel Marte, who has been out since April 8 with a strained right hamstring, took at-bats on Thursday and will play four innings of a simulated game in center field on Friday.
“We’re getting close with both of these athletes,” Lovullo said. “[We've] just got to make sure we complete the next necessary steps before we commit to what the next part of each process is.”
He said it
“We know that his time is going to be spent learning and growing at this point in his career, but at some point, that will transition into a different level. I believe in him as that type of player.” -- Lovullo, on Young's journey with the D-backs’ organization