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Sarah's Take: Young a valuable pickup for Dodgers

The Dodgers late Saturday night obtained utility infielder Michael Young from the Philadelphia Phillies for a Minor League left-handed pitcher, Rob Rasmussen. Everywhere Young has played, he has been popular with teammates and management alike.

After playing 13 seasons for the Rangers, Young holds many offensive records for Texas. He won the American League batting title in 2005, and his career batting average is .300. Despite being a second baseman originally, he endured many position changes while with the Rangers. Even though Texas didn't always consult him before it switched him, Young seldom complained and tried to learn the new position to the best of his ability. After the Rangers traded Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees, Young learned to play shortstop and won a Gold Glove there in 2008.

When the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre to play third base, Young had just helped lead his team to a World Series berth for the first time in franchise history. Not consulting him at all, the Rangers decided to make him a super-utility player. Understandably, Young was upset with their decision at first and requested a trade. Then, after rethinking his decision, Young rescinded his trade request and embraced his new role. The classy way that he handled his team's decision received national notoriety and earned him admiration from baseball fans everywhere.

This season while with the Phillies as they transitioned from being a veteran team to a young group, Young played mostly third base, hitting .276 with eight homers. When it became apparent that the Phillies had no chance of making the playoffs, Young became expendable. The Covina, Calif., native waived his no-trade clause to join the Dodgers, who will pay only $1 million of his $16 million salary.

Throughout the season, manager Don Mattingly has dealt with a weak bench, especially when Juan Uribe became the everyday third baseman. The current plan for Young, 36, is to have him as a reserve player. Since he can play all of the infield positions, he will receive plenty of playing time as Mattingly rests his other infielders to get them ready for the playoffs.

Before Uribe stabilized the third-base position, the Dodgers had a major problem at the hot corner. They began the season with Luis Cruz, but he couldn't hit well enough at the Major League level. They tried others there, but they weren't satisfactory either.

For the first two months of the season, Hanley Ramirez couldn't play. The Dodgers tried several people at shortstop, including Dee Gordon. But none of them could help the Dodgers win, except Nick Punto, who tired and became unproductive playing every day. Ramirez needs to rest before the playoffs begin because he has battled hamstring injuries and a bruised shoulder. Having a former Gold Glove shortstop to fill in for Ramirez is a boon for the Dodgers.

Though Skip Schumaker has been a good backup for second baseman Mark Ellis, he originally was a center fielder. The Dodgers don't have a surplus of outfielders, so when they need to have an outfielder, Schumaker needs to play there. Although the Dodgers will likely activate Matt Kemp later this week, he isn't comfortable at the plate yet. If Andre Ethier gets hurt or needs a rest, Schumaker needs to play center field.

At 36, Ellis needs periodic rest to prevent injuries and maintain his productivity. Having a natural second baseman like Young back up is a great boost for the Dodgers. Before this season, neither Jerry Hairston Jr. nor Uribe had played first base at all. Young has had significant time there, so he can be a backup for Adrian Gonzalez.

Young should also provide the Dodgers a pinch-hitter with some power, and this is something that they have lacked for the entire season. Acquiring Young strengthens the bench, the only weakness that the Dodgers have had since June.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at [email protected].
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