Young vies for All-Star slot at third base
2009 marks first time Rangers infielder not on ballot at short
ARLINGTON -- Sitting in the visitor's locker room prior to the Rangers' game at Rogers Centre on Wednesday, Michael Young had his eyes fixed on the clubhouse television, intently watching the Yankees take on the Athletics in an afternoon affair.
With two outs and the bases loaded in a tie ballgame, Young watched as New York shortstop Derek Jeter fouled various pitches off, before eventually flying out to end the inning.
However, nowadays, Young no longer has to worry about Jeter. A new position means new competition for Young as the All-Star voting got under way on Wednesday.
Young has been to five straight All-Star Games as a shortstop, but they have all been as a reserve, either selected by the players or the manager. Jeter has been the fan favorite, having been selected as the American League starting shortstop in four of the past five years. Miguel Tejada started in 2005.
Now, Young is on the ballot as a third baseman, but he still has some formidable rivals when it comes to All-Star experience at his new position. Alex Rodriguez is the most notable name, although he is still recovering from right hip surgery and is not expected to begin playing until sometime in May.
Young says the transition from shortstop to third base has gone well.
"It's been smooth so far," Young said. "There are still a lot of things I want to get better at. I know at the end of the year, I'll be a lot better than I am now. For the most part, I'm getting progressively better, which is what I hoped for when Spring Training started."
For some players, discomfort in the field can often lead to discomfort in the batter's box. Young says the position switch has not bothered him though, because he divides the two aspects of his game.
"I feel really good at the plate," said Young. "I know that whatever I do offensively has nothing to do with the field and vice-versa. So I really try to separate those parts of the game."
There are other contenders at third base that Young must compete with, including Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria, who was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2008, Scott Rolen, a five-time All-Star, and Boston's Mike Lowell, a four-time All-Star. Eric Chavez, Brandon Inge, Chone Figgins and Adrian Beltre aren't bad either.
This will be the first time since 2003 that Hank Blalock has not been the Rangers' third-base representative on the All-Star ballot. He has been switched to designated hitter and is not on the All-Star ballot at all.
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until July 2 at 10:59 p.m. CT. Voting at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington begins on May 1.
Starting rosters will be announced during the 2009 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on July 5. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote at MLB.com.
And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint MVP Vote at MLB.com.
The All-Star Game, to be played on July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.
The Rangers sent four position players to the All-Star Game last year for the first time in club history, and Young delivered the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly in the 15th inning in the AL's 4-3 victory.
Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Milton Bradley also represented the Rangers. Hamilton was voted into the starting lineup, the first Rangers outfielder to be selected by the fans since Juan Gonzalez in 1998.
Hamilton has a chance to be the first Rangers outfielder to be selected two years in a row. He is on the ballot, along with David Murphy and Nelson Cruz. Marlon Byrd is not on the ballot, but he can be selected as a write-in candidate.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus, first baseman Chris Davis and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia are on the All-Star ballot for the first time.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. David Singh contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.