Michael Young (Literally) Fighting Age
KISSIMMEE, Fla.--Last year, just six third baseman punched more than 150 games for their teams, compared to 13 at second base and 11 at first base and shortstop.
The hot corner can burn through a body fast.
(Listen to our Phillies insider, Matt Hammond's conversation with Michael Young)
That's why this offseason, before his age-36 season, Phillies third baseman Michael Young turned to a different type of training regimen, one that he thinks will help keep him on the field for as many as 155 to 160 games when games start to matter: mixed martial arts.
Guess you could say he's been fighting age, literally.
"It was awesome," he said after the Phillies 17-10 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Champions Field and the ESPN Wide World of Sports here.
"I’m going to do it every offseason."
His goal: to get in the best shape possible to not only endure the taxing 162-game schedule, but continue to polish his craft with the Phillies in Grapefruit League games this spring, even after 13 years in the bigs.
His regimen: his old routine, plus three times a week in an MMA gym.
"I wasn't taking blows to the chops or anything," he joked.
But he wasn't squandering any opportunities, now or in the regular (and maybe post) season, either. Even if that meant, as he said, grinding day in and out with little to no rest between workouts.
"That was my goal heading into the season," he said. "And that’s exactly what’s happened. I’ve been able to work really hard. I’m breaking a full sweat. But I don’t think I’ve really started to lose my breath one time."
This spring, Young has batted .294 in 18 games, making for technically his least productive exhibition season since 2006, when he hit .270 in 12 Cactus League games with the Texas Rangers.
Then again, Young's set high standards for himself: in his career, he's hit .370 in February and March, three times topping .400.
Still, the concern is that playing third base full-time for the first time since 2010 will, along with his age, begin to erode his .301 career average, why the Phillies sent Josh Lindblom to Texas to get him in December.
If so, Young doesn't feel it coming, physically.
"To be honest with you, I’ve felt the same my whole career," he said. "One thing I’ve heard most, (other players) say when you hit 30, that’s when your body starts to take a bit more of a beating. I never really felt that way. I feel the same as I’ve felt for a long time."
To Kevin Frandsen, that's how it looks, too.
"Look at him walking around," he joked on Sunday. "He’s young. People always do the age thing. They just assume by age. They don’t look. You always gotta look first."
And, to Frandsen, take a closer look at the numbers.
"They say he had a down year last year. He hit like .280," he said with a laugh. "That’s a down year? I mean, really? The media portrays that as such a down year. Ask a lot of major leaguers what they would like. That would be a helluva year."
In both 2008 and 2010, Young hit .283 after hitting over .310 the year prior. The years after, he hit .322 and .388.
In both bounce-back years, he actually played the field more.
But if he's befallen by injury or the coaching staff opts to temper his usage, Frandsen will likely be the guy the Phillies turn to.
Nothing is for certain. But Frandsen's .338 average and .834 OPS in 55 games last summer and .298 average and .880 this spring make him a safe bet for one of two roster spots likely to go to utility infielders. Freddy Galvis will likely land the other.
"He’s been great," Young said of Frandsen. "Really versatile guy. Works hard. He and I take ground balls together every morning. I think that he knows he can carve himself out a really great niche."
In 2007, Frandsen seemed to have done just that for the Giants, hitting .269 in 109 games, but he was derailed by an Achilles injury the next spring, costing him all but one game. Between then and last season, he played 77 games and none in 2011.
For the three years since, Frandsen said, his focus has been his consistency -- not only in his performance, but also in his preparation.
That's partly where a guy like Young comes in.
"You hear all the stories about him, and he just tops it," Frandsen said of Young. "Just with his personality and willingness to help. He’ll ask me questions, there’s certain things I do, and I’m like, You’ve got the All-Star games behind you, buddy."
And, the Phillies hope, at least one more ahead of him.