01/25/09 10:00 PM EST
Young fit, motivated to compete
Outfielder anticipates spring competition for starting spot
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
Young's first season in Minnesota was considered somewhat of a disappointment by both himself and the organization, despite the fact that he batted .290 with 10 home runs and 69 RBIs in 152 games. His power numbers weren't quite what the team had hoped they would be, with him not hitting his first home run until June.But Young has tried not to dwell on what happened last season. "I just have to realize I was 22 last year," he said. "I've got a lot of buddies who are my age, and they are just getting out of college or just starting short-season [baseball], and I realize I was 22 in my second full season in the big leagues. The second year is often the toughest one, because the teams and pitchers had a better scouting report on me than in my first season. So it was tough at first making the adjustments, but I started to figure it out in the second half of the season." Young's production did pick up in the second half of 2008, even as he was forced to play through a right ankle injury over the final two months. That injury also limited Young's workouts and caused him to gain several pounds, so he has spent the winter working to get his body back in shape. Young took a few weeks off in October to rest his ankle and let it heal before returning to the gym. As he did last offseason, he has been working to add muscle and shed body fat at the Peak Performance Project in Santa Barbara, Calif. But instead of making the nearly 40-mile drive from his parents' home to the facility, as he did last year, he got his own apartment just down the street from the gym. With his ankle fully healed, Young has been able to do a little more intense training than he did even last offseason. He's dropped some pounds but is more focused on the overall change he's seen in his body. "I feel really good right now," he said. "At one point my body composition had changed a lot, but my weight stayed the same. Now, since we've been doing more power lifting the last month, the weight has been coming off. I just feel good." Despite missing the first two days of TwinsFest because of illness, Young flew in from Santa Barbara late on Saturday night to attend the final day of the event on Sunday. He'll end up traveling a total of eight hours to spend one day with fans, but he said it was worth it. It was also, perhaps, a small step by Young in showing the Twins his level of dedication to the organization. The Twins had some concerns at times last season with Young's unwillingness to listen to the coaching staff. In December, Gardenhire described Young as "a little more stubborn than some of the guys" and said that all he wanted of Young was for "him to flow into our program and understand what we are all about." Young appears to be adopting at least one part of the Twins' philosophy by taking a team-first attitude when it comes to the outfield race. He said on Sunday that he thinks having four quality outfielders is a good thing for the ballclub, and that having the extra competition can only motivate him to make the most out of his abilities. And though he undoubtedly wants to come out of Spring Training with one of the starting spots, he is trying to view the situation in an optimistic light whichever way it turns out. "I was there in 2007 in Tampa Bay when Carlos Pena got cut, Greg Norton got hurt hours later and Pena was back on the team for Opening Day. Pena didn't really play the first month, and then he ends up with the season he had that year," Young said in reference to Pena's 46 home runs and 121 RBIs for Tampa Bay that year. "So it doesn't necessarily mean you have to start the season on Day 1. Just as long as you get in there with quality, consistent at-bats over the course of a season, everything will work out."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.