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01/15/09 9:41 PM EST
Young will shift to third base
Rangers shortstop changes stance, clearing way for rookie Andrus
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
The Rangers have a new third baseman. His name is Michael Young.
Young said Thursday that he is agreeing to the Rangers request to move to third base and is no longer asking to be traded. That will allow the Rangers to go with 20-year-old rookie Elvis Andrus at shortstop.
Young, a five-time All-Star shortstop, made the decision after conversations with his agent, Dan Lozano, club president Nolan Ryan and manager Ron Washington. He has not spoken with general manager Jon Daniels, who instigated the move in a meeting with Young back in December.
At the time, Young was opposed to the move and he still feels that way. He made it clear that he doesn't feel it's time to switch positions. But he said he is willing to agree to the switch so that he and the Rangers can move forward, put the controversy behind them and get ready for Spring Training.
"My focus is playing for the Rangers, playing for a winning club and playing the best third base that I can," Young said. "Yes, I was adamant about staying at shortstop. But at the end of the day, after looking at everything, the chances of being traded were slim and the team wasn't really pursuing a trade.
"They wanted me to play third base and I didn't want this to drag on. I don't want my focus to be on anything but being ready for Spring Training. I'm focused on having a big year and the last thing I wanted to do was have anything take away from that."
Young said he wasn't going to apologize for wanting to stay at shortstop. He switched from second base to shortstop at the beginning of the 2004 Spring Training and has worked hard at his defense. That work was rewarded last season when he won his first Gold Glove.
"I have a certain amount of pride in playing shortstop," Young said. "Absolutely I'm proud. Pride can't be shut off. It makes me the player that I am and allows me to play at a high level. I'm proud of the way I play the game. But I have to be fair. It's time to move on and play winning baseball.
"This is the way it was going to turn out. There was no trade in sight so once I thought it over, it was time to get to work."
The decision ends four days of controversy that erupted on Sunday night when Daniels announced that the Rangers had requested Young to move to third base. Young publicly responded that he was being forced to move to third base and wanted to be traded instead.
Said Daniels: "I feel good about the decision we made as an organization: the management team, our staff on the field and our baseball operations. As we continue to build from within and try to put the right people on the field, Mike's selfless decision only reinforces that."
The decision elicited strong opinions coming from everywhere on both sides of the issue. Young said he regretted that Andrus and Rangers fans ended up getting caught in the middle of something that he was hoping would get hammered out behind closed doors.
"Elvis is a good kid," Young said. "There were a couple of things about this that were tough. One is, the fans shouldn't have to choose between the club and a player. We're all working for the same thing. That's the last thing I wanted to happen.
"It's also tough for Elvis. He's a good kid. I met him last year in Spring Training and really like him. I want to be there for him and do everything I can to help him."
Andrus, who was one of five players acquired from the Braves for Mark Teixeira at the Trade Deadline in 2007, was at Double-A Frisco in 2008, hitting .295 with a .350 on-base percentage, 82 runs scored and 54 stole bases. He is also considered an outstanding defensive player who started for the World team in the 2008 Futures Game at Yankee Stadium. Managers voted him the best defensive shortstop in the Texas League in a survey for Baseball America.
Young also said moving from shortstop to third base is not going to be an easy transition. He hasn't played third base since 2002 when he played four games in late-inning situations. The numbers show he played eight innings and had three assists.
"Just because I'm moving 40 feet doesn't mean it's going to be easy," Young said. "I might as well being moving to left field. It's a different position. It's something I really have to work on. You see guys going from shortstop to third base, it's not an easy adjustment."