Young gets new life as Mariners' fifth starter

Young gets new life as Mariners' fifth starter

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After wondering a year ago if his Major League career was over due to ongoing shoulder issues, veteran right-hander Chris Young is eager for a new lease on his baseball life.

The 34-year-old will get that chance with the Mariners as he's scheduled to pitch Seattle's final Cactus League game Saturday and then slot immediately into the rotation as the club's fifth starter when the regular season begins next week.

Young brings a towering 6-foot-10 presence and a renewed confidence, thanks to surgery in June after doctors determined he was suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve condition that he feels has hampered his throwing shoulder since his 2007 All-Star season with the Padres.

After pitching only a handful of Minor League games last year for the Nationals, he was released by the Nats on Tuesday, but quickly signed on with the Mariners as they look to fill out their short-handed rotation.

Veteran left-hander Randy Wolf asked for his release from the Mariners on Tuesday after declining to sign an "advance consent release" that would have allowed the club to cut him in the first 45 days of the regular season without owing the rest of his $1 million salary.

Young agreed to a $1.25 million base salary that also includes up to $3.4 million in incentive bonuses, much the same as Wolf had in his deal. But Young signed off on the advance-consent clause, willing to take that risk if the team decides to release him before the 46th day of the season.

"I felt it was really a non-issue," said Young. "I always tell myself it's a performance-based game and the club has the right to release you at any point. It's just a matter of whether your salary is guaranteed for the rest of the season. For me, I don't play for the money. I play because I love the game. I'm just super excited to be out there and looking forward to making the most of the opportunity."

Young posted a 3.48 ERA in four Grapefruit League appearances with the Nationals this spring, allowing eight hits and four runs with four walks and nine strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings. He also threw 75 pitches in a four-inning Minor League outing and said he's stretched out enough to start right away.

As a nine-year Major League veteran with a career record of 53-43 with a 3.79 ERA, Young has done well when healthy. But he hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2012 with the Mets when he was 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA in 20 starts.

He's eager now to show what he can do following his surgery, where doctors removed a three-inch segment from his top rib and unwrapped neck muscles that had tightened around the nerves between his neck and shoulder.

"The doctor said, 'I hate to tell you this, but this has probably been the cause of the last five years of your shoulder issues," said Young, who had two prior shoulder surgeries, as well, that failed to relieve his ongoing pain. "But hindsight is 20-20 and I'm just glad it's corrected and I can hopefully look forward to some good years ahead."

Despite his size, Young has never been a power pitcher. He relies on command and his lanky frame to make things difficult for opposing hitters.

"He's a veteran guy that knows how to pitch," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "One thing about Young, he creates angles. He's so tall and if he creates those proper angles, he has a chance to be successful, particularly in Safeco. He's a fly ball pitcher and he knows what he's doing and knows the league, so it'll be pretty interesting."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.