Checking Out Third Base

Michael Young is slowly trying to get a feel for his new spot on the left side of the Texas Rangers' infield, about 40 feet from where he's used to playing.

A day before the Rangers' first full-squad workout of the spring, Young stood near third base during live batting practice Wednesday to get an idea of how the ball came off the bat.

He also took grounders from manager Ron Washington on the infield-only short field.

"I pretty much want to get out there live so I can see the ball off the bat," said Young, the five-time All-Star shortstop again adjusting to a new position. "I know it's a transition but I don't see myself having massive difficulty with it. Once I get some reps under my belt I'll be ready to go."

Texas switched Young, who last season was the AL Gold Glove shortstop, to third base to make room for 20-year-old shortstop prospect Elvis Andrus, a touted prospect who has never played above Double-A.

Young, the Rangers' longest-tenured player going into his ninth season, initially asked for a trade when told about the team's plan during the winter. But Young said last month he'd make the move, though he still didn't agree with it.

"At some point my personal feelings had to take a back seat to my responsibility to 24 other guys," Young said. "When the whole thing happened, I had complete support of my teammates, which made me feel better about the direction I was headed in.

But in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to be there for them. Once I realized it was a dead end-type situation, I decided to work as hard as I can to be the best I can."

All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler, Young's double-play partner the past three seasons, was one of the players Young spoke to during the winter.

"He has a lot of pride in what he does," Kinsler said. "He worked really hard to be a good shortstop. He needed a little time to adjust but he's ready now and ready to play third."

This season starts the five-year, $80 million contract extension Young signed during spring training in 2007 that prevented him from becoming a free agent. He is due about $62 million over the next five seasons since some of the money was paid as a signing bonus and more is deferred.

Although he originally asked to be traded, Young said his heart wasn't in the request.

"One reason why I wanted to come back is I wanted to see this through," Young said. "I'm going into my ninth year with the Rangers so when this team turned it around I wanted to be there for them. I want to be one of the main contributors."

The switch to third is Young's second position change since joining the Rangers. He was the starting second baseman for three seasons before volunteering to move to shortstop in the spring of 2004 after Texas traded AL MVP Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees. Young has made the AL All-Star team each season since.

Young's only four games at third base came in 2002.

Washington, who has also hit grounders to Young on Tuesday after the player reported to camp, is confident of the veteran's ability to make the switch.

 "He looks like Michael," Washington said. "I didn't see any difference. We need to work with him on some angles and work with him on certain defensive plays he has to do and the fundamentals part of it. But other than that, he looked like Michael. Hit a ball to him and he catches it.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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