Young previews excitement, shows growing pains
The jury is out on Rockies prospect Eric Young Jr. when it comes to his completeness. But he is finishing Spring Training demonstrating why folks are interested in the answer, and showing why there are questions.
In Sunday’s game with the Athletics, Young knocked a slow roller into left field and hustled out a double in the second inning. In the sixth, he walked, stole second and stole third.
But with two out and one on in the seventh, Young, who had moved from third base to center field, dropped an Eric Patterson fly ball that was almost directly at him. This came a day after a fly ball in left field by the White Sox’s Mark Kotsay ticked off his glove for a double.
The Rockies have tried Young, a second baseman, at second, third, left field and center field this spring. The defensive results have been mixed, and he has struggled in the outfield. Offensively, he was hitting .154 through March 19. In the nine days since, Young has hit .400 (8 for 20) to improve his batting average to .226. In fairness, before rushing unnecessarily and dropping the fly ball in the seventh inning, Young made a couple of stellar plays on hard-hit balls at third base.<p>
Unless something happens in the final days of camp, the switch-hitting Young will have time to work on his various skills. The Rockies’ signing of veteran right-handed hitting utility man Melvin Mora put Young in position to begin the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
The strong offensive finish is reminiscent of last spring, when Young looked nervous early but received regular work and finished well enough to make an impression. Last August, the Rockies called him up and used him at center field, second base and off the bench.
“I think that’s a good thing,” Young said. “You want to make sure you’re going into the season hitting your stride, and you want to take off at full speed. I’m glad I was able to get those not-so-good at-bats out the first week, especially with the pitchers a week ahead as far as timing and all that. So I feel pretty good coming into this last week.”
Rockies manager Jim Tracy said to remember that the expanded utility role is new for Young, who has the athletic ability but is having to develop the game-situation awareness to move from position to position.
“Coming in and doing it for the first time on day one of Spring Training, how can you not be pleased with what you’re seeing with this kid?” Tracy said. “I told him a while back, ‘I don’t know what you’re hitting and I don’t care what you’re hitting, because you’re going to hit. You don’t need to prove that to us.’
“That’s not even an issue. But how comfortable can you be if in the middle of the game I move you from third base to center field? Can you do that? That’s part of what a big-time utility player is able and must be capable of doing. There’s a little bit of a challenge to it.”