SARASOTA, Fla. - New Orioles outfielder Eric Young Jr. is ready for some double duty in spring camp. He is trying to win a job and roster spot for his new team while at the same time very ready to help any young players that need advice - including some who might win a roster spot that keeps him off the team.
It’s kind of the definition of unselfish and being a real pro.
After 10 seasons and 651 games in the majors, Young is ready for others to benefit from the experience he gained in time with Colorado, the New York Mets, the Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta and the New York Yankees.
This point was reinforced to me during an interview with Young on Saturday morning in the Orioles clubhouse. I asked him about mentoring and helping some of the young outfielders in camp.
“I wouldn’t even say just the young outfielders,” the 33-year-old Young said. “Any player out here. Being a professional is hard enough, the day-to-day grind of it. Trying to share on- and off-the-field experiences with all the young players, whatever position they play. Just so they can keep themselves ready every day and stay mentally strong. This game will beat you down at times. Keeping them ready to try to extend their careers for as many years, as I’ve been fortunate enough to play and still hopefully got plenty more to go.”
The Orioles agreed Feb. 11 with Young on a minor league deal and it obviously didn’t take him long to warm up to his new teammates. He’s ready to help in any way.
“Definitely. And it’s one of my passions,” said Young, adding that Latroy Hawkins and Michael Cuddyer once mentored him. “I hate to see anyone struggling, especially when it comes to the mental side of being a professional on and off the field. It’s just natural for me to want to go help and share. If anyone asks questions, I’m more than happy to share my experiences. I had veterans that did that for me when I was coming up. It’s only right, an unwritten rule and I want to pay it forward. They did it for me and I want to do it for the next generation to keep this game going as strong as possible.”
Young is a career .245/.312/.332 hitter in the majors who hit .202 in 117 plate appearances with the Angels last season. He’s made 80 career starts in center field, 34 in right and 46 at second base.
So far, he’s impressed by the camp run by new manager Brandon Hyde.
“Brandon is doing a great job of making sure we get the work done,” Young said. “Being efficient with the time. Not necessarily trying to be out there all day sweating under the sun, but making sure that we are practicing with a purpose. Think it’s been working so far and everyone is responding well.”
It looked good on the field Saturday as the Orioles beat the Minnesota Twins 7-2 in their Grapefruit League opener. Young got the start in left field and went 0-for-2. Hyde is not a fan of the word “rebuild,” and Young isn’t either. He’s not ready to say this club should expect mounting losses come April.
“I’ve seen teams with a lot of big names on paper that fell short of success and I’ve seen a lot of teams that didn’t have as many big names compete as a team,” Young said. “They played together and had good seasons. Like I’ve said, there are a lot of hungry players in here that want to prove themselves. Myself, just want to keep going and enjoy the game that I love. I think with a combination of that we can go out there and surprise a lot of people.”
Young and his father, Eric Young Sr., make up a good trivia question. They are the only father-son combination in major league history to lead the league in stolen bases. Young swiped 46 in 2013 to lead the National League and his dad got 53 bags in 1996 to top that league.
“Only father and son to both win stolen base titles, which is pretty cool, pretty awesome. It’s something that our family cherishes definitely,” added Young.
Day One impressions: The Orioles were outhit 11-8 in their spring opener, but two homers produced five runs. Chance Sisco hit a three-run shot against the wind in the first. Yusniel Diaz smoked a line drive two-run blast in the third. That produced an early 6-1 lead and five-run win.
While he was in the game, center fielder Cedric Mullins showed off his speed and pop. He walked, stole a base and scored in the first. It was a good start for Mullins, and while he stole 21 of 22 bases on the farm last year, he was just 2-for-5 in the majors. Mullins also doubled to left off a lefty in the third and reached on an infield hit. Against lefty pitching last year, the switch-hitter batted .300 at Double-A Bowie but just .220 at Triple-A Norfolk and .156 with Baltimore. So that double had to be big for Mullins.
Orioles pitchers saw a mess of runners reach base. Minnesota had 11 hits, but went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11. Just two O’s pitchers had 1-2-3 innings - Mike Wright in his second inning of work in the fourth and Zach Pop in the ninth.
The Orioles host Toronto today and the game will be on the Orioles radio network at 1 p.m. I’ll be broadcasting 16 spring games this year on Orioles.com and the MLB.com At Bat app. The first of those games is Monday at 1 p.m. when the Orioles play the Twins in Ft. Myers. We’ll have games on Orioles.com for five straight days beginning Monday.