04/02/2004 1:42 AM ET
Texas wants to build around Young
Switch to short going well as contract talks continue
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
|Michael Young's transition to shortstop has been nearly seamless. (Rick Bowmer/AP)
SAN FRANCISCO -- There's no question Michael Young fits the profile for the type of player the Rangers want around as they build their organization back up to a championship caliber.
If third baseman Hank Blalock is considered the poster boy for the team's future, then Young -- the team's new shortstop with the departure of Alex Rodriguez -- belongs on the poster, too.
"When you're at the stage of development of a team like we are, you build around people like that because you know they represent more than just what they do inning to inning on a baseball field," Rangers assistant GM Grady Fuson said Thursday. "They represent what you want in the clubhouse and on the bench, with the attitude, the achievement, the perseverance it takes to become a good player."
The only question hanging in the balance at the moment about Young is whether he and the Rangers will have a deal in place before the regular season starts to wrap him up through his arbitration years and possibly beyond.
Young originally set a deadline on long-term negotiations with the club. But those negotiations were still ongoing after a hectic couple of days of breaking camp in Arizona -- and with a deal possibly on the horizon.
"We're pretty close," Young said before Thursday night's game against the Giants. "Hopefully we can get something that we're both happy with. Things are progressing pretty well."
Of course, even if the talks do shut down, they can start up again in the offseason. But the offers, reportedly focused on a four-year deal with the Rangers pushing for a fifth-year option, are on the table now.
Fuson said there is reason for optimism regarding the future of the team's shortstop, a 27-year-old who had 200 hits as its second baseman last year, his third full year in the Majors.
"It's in good standing right now on both sides," Fuson said. "We'll see where it closes down, but I think it's a very amicable situation right now between both parties."
By all accounts, Young has many of the same qualities as Blalock, the player the Rangers anointed as their poster boy for the future when they signed him to a long-term deal earlier this spring. Both have talent, work ethic, a determination to succeed and a team-first attitude.
Certainly, Rangers manager Buck Showalter has seen those qualities in Young both last year and this Spring Training, when he grabbed the shortstop role and ran with it.
"It's been good, and a lot of it has to do with Mike," Showalter said.
Said Young: "I hadn't played there in four years, so angles and trying to get different reads on balls and knowing how much time I have are the types of things I've needed to work on. But those things come with experience."
Of course, that's not all Young has been focusing on this Spring Training.
"I think Spring Training's more about trying to gel with your teammates, get everybody on the same page and get ready for Opening Day, and in that sense Spring Training has been a huge success for us," he said.
Still, the fact is the rest of the baseball world wants to know more about how the Rangers are going to do without Rodriguez at shortstop than whether the Rangers are all on the same page.
In a sense, Young took some of the focus off the shortstop situation from the beginning, erasing any doubt about who should be the man to take over where A-Rod left off.
It was Young who walked into Showalter's office early in camp and suggested he take over the role, leaving newly acquired Alfonso Soriano to stay at second base. Young played shortstop coming up through the minors in the Toronto system.
The transition has been a generally seamless one, which is exactly what Showalter expected from Young.
"You still like to see it," Showalter said. "But anything Michael does doesn't surprise me. That's why you'd like to see things work out. You like to see guys like him get rewarded for things like that."
That said, one of the qualities the Rangers like about Young is that he's not focused so much on the reward.
Deal or no deal, Young remains focused on the job at hand.
"I'm not really the type of person who looks too far ahead in my career," Young said. "I'm really focused on just getting ready for the first game of the year. I think the best way to achieve results is to stay in the present and really focus on how I can help the team win today.
"I'm very driven by improving in this game."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.