Nats sign Chris Young to minor league deal

Chris Young is back with the Nationals.

After opting out of his initial minor league deal with the Nats on March 25, Young has returned to the organization, agreeing to terms on a new minor league deal this afternoon.

Young, 33, will throw a couple bullpen sessions down at the Nationals’ minor league complex in Viera, Fla., and then will report to Triple-A Syracuse to join the rotation there.

His new deal does not contain an opt-out clause, according to a source.

Young posted a 2.25 ERA in four Grapefruit League starts with the Nats this spring. His signing provides valuable starting pitching depth, an area the Nationals had been looking to improve all offseason and into spring.

“I like him,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He threw the ball good this spring. Pitched really well. Competitor. It’s real great insurance.”

Johnson was asked if he was surprised no other team picked up Young on a big league deal after he chose to become a free agent.

“Yeah, I am,” Johnson said. “He had a good spring for us. Probably late in the year, a lot of clubs (will want to be) going with their young guys.”

Standing 6-foot-10, Young’s fastball was topping out in the low-80s during spring, but his height has him throwing at a downward plane, which is an adjustment for hitters. Johnson also noted that Young is able to release the ball closer to home plate because of his length, which gives hitters less time to react.

Young said multiple times throughout spring that he loved being a part of the Nationals organization, and after opting out of his contract following his final spring start, said he hoped to be able to return to the Nats.

The veteran right-hander’s priority was to find a major league contract somewhere, but when it became apparent he wouldn’t be able to do so, the Nationals jumped in and offered Young a new minor league deal.

Johnson said he felt Young was pitching at a big league level toward the end of spring, and now he’ll be stashed at Triple-A in case one of the Nats’ top five starters (Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren or Ross Detwiler) goes down with an injury. Johnson said Young would “probably” serve as the Nats’ top option to replace a guy in the big league rotation.

“When you really have a good organization is when you have depth at your Triple-A, Double-A level, that they’re knocking on the door, those big league prospects,” Johnson said. “That was the one area, because of the (Brad) Peacock, (Tommy) Millone trade, we lost a sizeable amount of our insurance.”

And that’s an area that Young will help fill.

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