Young looking like 'old reliable' for Royals
Right-hander enjoying another stellar season after '14 comeback
MILWAUKEE -- Before Tuesday night's game, manager Ned Yost was asked if starter Chris Young could be fairly described as "invaluable" to the Royals.
"That's pretty fair to say," Yost said. "He's been a really, really nice pickup for us."
By the end of the game, even "invaluable" looked like an understatement. Young pitched with his usual effectiveness, which has been considerable. In this case, he contributed seven shutout innings. But he also drove in three runs with a pair of singles.
It all added up to a 7-2 victory over the Brewers. And it also added up to another chapter in Young's remarkable story of persistence and determination.
Young has had a series of shoulder injuries and conditions, dating as far back as 2009, that have limited his time on the mound, and curtailed promising seasons, but have not reduced his desire to compete. Young did not pitch at all in the big leagues in 2013 due in part to thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve condition that puts pressure on the shoulder.
But Young revived his career in 2014 with a solid season in Seattle. For 2015, he signed with the Royals, who saw him as a spot starter/long man in the bullpen, a plausible source of insurance for the rotation.
"We knew that he would provide solid depth for us," Yost said.
That concept was tested as injuries struck the Royals' rotation. After six relief appearances, Young has made eight starts. He has given up one run or fewer in six. Overall, he is 6-2 with a 1.98 ERA.
Young's performance has been ultra-reliable. Yost was asked how it was for a manager to watch somebody work with this sort of command and assurance.
"It's a real nice feeling," Yost said. "But it starts before the game because you've got a real good idea of what you're going to get. The guy's going to compete, he's going to execute pitches, he's got a tremendous game plan. There's just a lot of confidence every time he steps on the mound."
Tuesday night, Young's fastball was generally at 86-87 mph. But this is a lesson in velocity not being the primary measurement of pitching effectiveness. Young's fastball was located precisely, his slider and changeup were working, and his command appeared to be impeccable. He was aided by some defensive gems, particularly center fielder Lorenzo Cain's leaping grab at the wall of a drive by Jonathan Lucroy with two on in the fourth. But overall this was an example of a pitcher working at the top of his craft.
"It's that mystical deception, I guess, I don't know," Yost said. "Nobody can hit him. We could never hit him. I kept wondering why we could never hit him and then you get a chance to watch him every five days, and nobody else can hit him, either, for the most part."
Young's version of his consistent success does not rely on any mystical component. It is the standard guide to winning on the mound.
"Making good pitches, that's it," he said. "Have a good game plan, spend a lot of time preparing and then go out there and execute the game plan. There's no secret to it, it's just trying to make good pitches, have a plan, stay focused, give the team a chance to win. The guys pick me up and make it look easy."
The big picture of Young's career may make a compelling story for the rest of us, but it is of little interest to him at the moment. He has more immediate concerns, such as doing whatever he can every fifth day to ensure that the Royals continue and maybe even exceed their success of 2014.
"I don't get caught up in that right now," Young said. "I've worked hard to be where I am, but it's not easy to be a Major Leaguer. Everybody in this room works hard to be successful at this level. Maybe one day I'll look back and say, 'yeah, it's fulfilling.' But right now I'm focused on the next game. I've got a tough game in five days against Boston. I stay in the moment. I don't get caught up in evaluating the big picture or try to take satisfaction out of it.
"The satisfaction will be when this team wins and is able to compete for a World Series [championship] just like it did last year. That's what I want to be part of."
Chris Young has already become an integral part of the Royals' effort to do just that.