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Pandemic personal for D-backs lefty Young

Pitcher vying for rotation spot supports frontline-working girlfriend
@SteveGilbertMLB
July 12, 2020

As he battles for the final spot in the D-backs rotation in Phoenix, Alex Young’s longtime girlfriend, Nicole Griffin, faces bigger challenges as a frontline healthcare worker at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. “That’s the one downside of being out here and her still being out in Texas, because

As he battles for the final spot in the D-backs rotation in Phoenix, Alex Young’s longtime girlfriend, Nicole Griffin, faces bigger challenges as a frontline healthcare worker at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

“That’s the one downside of being out here and her still being out in Texas, because right now she doesn’t have that support,” Young said. “She has her friends, but I want to be there for her.”

According to a story in The Athletic, Griffin works in the cardiovascular unit of the hospital, but she does have to frequently treat patients who have COVID-19.

Seeing what Griffin has had to deal with has given Young an up-close look at the impact of the virus on both patients and healthcare workers, and he had a message he wanted to share.

“The biggest thing is to wear your mask,” Young said. “It protects you. Obviously, there are people who have asthma and can’t wear masks, so I get that. But at all costs, I think you should be wearing a mask. It saves lives. It protects you. I’ve seen firsthand with my girlfriend telling me stories about how bad it is. It’s so unpredictable and people have different symptoms. It just destroys your body. It doesn’t really matter what your age is or anything like that. It happens to all ages.”

The D-backs will be near Dallas when they travel to Arlington to play the Rangers on the first road trip of the season. Young, though, isn’t certain whether he’ll get to see Griffin because of all the safety protocols.

“I saw that and was super excited for that series to happen early [in the season],” Young said. “I didn’t know if my girlfriend was going to be able to come out here at all so having that series was awesome. We’ll definitely have to take precautions, just kind of talk about what we’re going to do when that time comes just because I’ll be around other people that I haven’t been around the last couple of months and she’s obviously still exposed and I don’t want to expose anyone on the team, either.”

While he endeavors to support Griffin from a distance, Young works to secure a spot on the D-backs Opening Day roster and possibly the starting rotation.

The 26-year-old made 17 appearances (15 starts) last year after getting called up for the first time, and he was one of Arizona’s better starters, going 7-5 with a 3.56 ERA.

That would normally have been enough to make him a leading candidate to make the rotation, but with the return to health of right-hander Luke Weaver and the addition of veteran lefty Madison Bumgarner via free agency, Young, as well as Merrill Kelly, appeared to be on the outside looking in back in March.

Since then, veteran Mike Leake elected not to play this year, which opened a rotation spot with Young and Kelly the main contenders.

Young allowed one run and struck out five over 3 2/3 innings in an intrasquad game Sunday.

If he doesn’t make the rotation, Young could be used out of the bullpen as a second lefty with Andrew Chafin or in more of a long relief role.

“If that’s relieving, starting, whatever it is, I’ve said this numerous amounts of times whatever it is, I’m ready for it,” Young said. “I’m going out there and competing every single time to earn that.”

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.