05/12/11 7:53 PM ET
New role, same results from consistent Young
Whether playing field or DHing, veteran has same approach
By Todd Willis / Special to MLB.com
That moment is the essence of why Young is on pace for his sixth career 200-hit season. He leads the American League with 51 hits. He is eighth in the Major Leagues with a .349 batting average. He is in the Top 10 in several other offensive categories in the AL, including fourth in RBIs (28) and second in doubles (14).
Young is the Rangers' all-time hits leaders because he rarely out-thinks himself. He is off to one of his best starts with the club, maybe his best ever, and it has shown with each of his at-bats, the penultimate moment taking ball four on Tuesday night.
"Approach-wise, I've been consistent," Young said. "There's still some things I want to work on, but my approach is good right now."
Young's story is one of the best in baseball because of what transpired this offseason, when he was shifted to a super utility role with most of his at-bats coming as the designated hitter when the club signed free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre. Young and the club then butted heads over trade rumors and a subsequent demand by Young to be dealt.
Young showed up at Spring Training and continued to work like he always has. He has carried himself in his usual manner since the season started, continuing to be the club's team spokesman. His recent interaction with the media when he was asked about the Dallas Mavericks' stunning sweeping of the Los Angeles Lakers -- Young is a massive Lakers fan -- was hilarious.
All the talk of Young being a part-time player has been made moot. He has 146 at-bats, which leads the Rangers. He will get his first scheduled day off on Friday against the Angels.
When he's not playing the field, Young has shifted seamlessly to the designated-hitter role. He was told by several people inside and outside of baseball to make preemptive adjustments to his routine. He refused.
He plays the game the same way he did as a rookie second baseman in 2001.
"It's about the same," Young said. "I wasn't really trying to make any big [changes]. I'm going to trust myself first, and if I need to make an adjustment on the fly, then I'll make it. But everybody was like, 'You're DHing. What are you going to do differently?'
"I'm not going to do anything different, and I think so far that has worked. At the same time, if I need to make an adjustment, then I'll make it."
Serving as a DH might extend Young's career and help him reach 3,000 hits. He has 1,899 hits as he closes in on 2,000 hits. Young already has 51 hits this season.
"I don't think he needed to prove how good of a hitter he is," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "He's accomplished a lot in his career already. And I don't know if it gets overlooked or whatever, but everyone in here and everyone throughout the game knows that's he's a great hitter."
Anyone who doubted Young's ability to make the switch were wrong, said manager Ron Washington, who is known for standing behind his players.
"The guy is a hitter," Washington said. "He can hit. The opportunities that he's getting on the field are helping him. And the guy wants to win, so he'll do anything he can to help the team win. I don't think anybody in Texas is seeing anything they haven't seen Michael do before."
Washington vowed during Spring Training that he would find a way to get Young at first base or second base as often as possible to keep him in the flow of the game. Washington's unofficial goal is to get Young on the field at least once a series.
The Rangers have played 12 series so far this season. Young has made seven starts at second base, five at first base and 25 as the DH.
"Wash has been great about keeping me active and on the field," Young said. "Obviously there are a lot of things I still want to work on at first [base]. It's still pretty foreign to me. Second base has gone exactly how I thought it would. My routine has gotten a little better when I'm DHing. So far, so good."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.