Chris Young (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The plan seemed like a feasible one.
Against left-handed starting pitchers, Hanley Ramirez would move to first base with Chris Young sliding into the designated hitter spot. Considering how Young typically tortures southpaws — finishing last season with a .999 OPS — it made sense.
But, as we sit here, the blueprint is murky.
Ramirez still hasn’t played in the field due to an ailing right shoulder, and it is unclear if he will be able to man first when the regular season rolls around next week. That would leave the righty hitter in the DH spot on a full-time basis, putting Mitch Moreland at first on a more regular basis, or allowing Josh Rutledge to get some action at the position.
Where it has left Young is with a whole lot of uncertainty.
“You think about it, for sure,” said Young regarding the possibility that Ramirez remains at DH due to his shoulder. “But you have no control over it. I can control what I can control. That’s all I try and focus on. I try and stay ready and be prepared for whatever situation comes my way, which is the same thing I did last year. Last year I didn’t know how things would fall into place, and they fell into place alright. Unfortunately I got hurt and that kind of changed the plan, but before that I was able to earn my way into the lineup. My goal is to earn my way and to show I can help the team in whatever aspects they need and stay ready.”
If the DH spot doesn’t open up, that would leave Young having to serve as a sub for an outfield that wouldn’t appear to need much turnover. The days Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts might need a down day would seem to be few and far between.
It would seemingly put Young in a similar spot as he found himself last April, when he got just five starts in the entire month.
There is always the strong likelihood that something changes as the schedule unfolds, as Young remembered happening last season. There ended up being 10 starts in May, and then 17 in May before he was sidelined for two months with a hamstring injury.
“That’s all you can do, is to continue to prepare every day like you’re playing that day and continue to show up ready to take advantage of any opportunity that comes,” he said. “If you let off, or sulk, or let too much from the outside influence your head, when that opportunity does come your way you’re not prepared for it. I choose not to go that route. I choose to go the route of being prepared all the time.”
And then there is the adjustment he will have to make if Ramirez actually does start playing the field. For his entire career, Young has only hit out of the designated hitter spot in for 35 plate appearances, going 4-for-29. Last year he managed just two at-bats as a DH.
“It will be different, but players have to make adjustments every year,” Young said. “I’ve always had to make adjustments. Even when I was playing every day I had to continue to make adjustments in my game. That work never stops. I’ll stay ready for whatever.”