Young brings experience, grit to Game 4 start
TORONTO -- Chris Young navigated through three professional organizations before his Major League debut, then established himself as one of the more consistent starters in the game from 2005-07, averaging 31 starts and a 3.60 ERA in that span. After an unrelenting string of ailments in his right shoulder limited him to 28 starts from June 2009 to April 2014, he resurfaced with a 3.40 ERA in 288 1/3 innings with the Mariners and Royals from 2014-15.
Few starting pitchers have overcome adversity like the 36-year-old right-hander, who takes the ball for Kansas City in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on Tuesday (3 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1, with game time at 4 p.m.) with a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series following Monday's 11-8 loss.
The significance is not lost on him.
"Moments like this are what I dreamed about and aspired to achieve going through surgeries and rehabs, times where I'm in Florida rehabbing by myself, away from my family, putting in all the sweat and hard work -- it was for moments like this," said Young, who will oppose his good friend and former teammate, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, at Rogers Centre.
"I'm going to cherish it."
Royals backup catcher Drew Butera faced Young when he was with the Angels earlier this season and had no idea how to pick up his fastball. It comes over the top from a 6-foot-10 frame -- a stature that makes Young the game's tallest active pitcher -- but it seems to slow down as it reaches home plate.
The average velocity of Young's four-seam fastball this season was 87.16 mph -- his highest in seven years -- but his perceived velocity was about a half-tick slower. That runs contrary to the vast majority of tall pitchers, who typically get the good extension that allows their fastballs to play up.
Young's plays slower, mostly because he ranks 44th in the Major Leagues in extension.
"Whether it's angle, whether it's movement, it's some type of deception where guys see it and just don't make solid contact," Butera said.
"I don't know if you see it very much at all," pitching coach Dave Eiland added. "You're usually talking about a fastball playing harder than what the radar gun shows. But it works for him. It's all about getting outs, and it works for him."
Manager Ned Yost ultimately chose Young over Kris Medlen, even though Rogers Centre's hitter-friendly atmosphere doesn't necessarily play favorably to Young's fly-ball tendencies.
Yost noted how well Young had been pitching of late, throwing five hitless innings on Sept. 27 -- the day after his father passed away -- then 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball on Oct. 2 and four innings of one-run ball out of the bullpen in Game 1 of the AL Division Series. Yost also took into account how much Toronto's Josh Donaldson (1-for-16), Troy Tulowitzki (2-for-11) and Jose Bautista (3-for-16) have historically struggled against Young.
"His height and his deception in his delivery, his competitiveness," Yost said when asked about selecting Young for Game 4. "He's a good choice for us."
Young's only other postseason start came nine years ago, for the Padres, in Game 3 of the 2006 National League Division Series against the Cardinals. Young remembers it as "a special time," calling it "a beautiful fall afternoon in St. Louis" and talking about how menacing the opposing lineup was.
"I had my work cut out for me then, I have my work cut out for me now," said Young, who helped San Diego avoid elimination with 6 2/3 scoreless innings that day. "Maybe I've lost a few miles an hour on the fastball, but I hope I can make up for it with a little more between the ears."