By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — Former All-Star Chris Young is the latest injury reclamation candidate to get a look at filling the final opening in the Mariners’ rotation.
The club reached an agreement Thursday on a one-year deal with Young, a right-hander who missed much of last year while recovering from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve ailment that affects the shoulder.
“The medical came back that he was fine,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “Our park is a good fit for him. All those things said and done, there’s a degree of a gamble. No question about it.
“We were looking for a veteran-type of guy to come in and help with the young group of kids we have. I think he fits.”
Young’s deal calls for a $1.25 million guarantee and includes escalating performance bonuses that can add another $3.475 million if he makes 28 starts and pitches 180 innings.
The Mariners cleared space for Young on their 40-man roster by designating left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise for assignment.
Plans call for Young to start Saturday against Colorado in the Mariners’ spring finale. Zduriencik termed it a “reasonable assumption” that Young will open the season in the rotation.
Young, 34, became available earlier this week by opting out of a minor-league contract with the Washington Nationals after being informed he would not make their 25-man roster.
“Our guys saw him in Florida,” Zduriencik said. “They liked what they saw. They thought he was back from his injury. He’s healthy — as good a you can expect for a guy who has been through what he’s been through.”
Young, who is 6 feet 10, battled numerous shoulder miseries prior to being diagnosed last year with thoracic outlet syndrome.
Corrective surgery last June included the removal of a portion of a rib, having some neck muscles scraped from a problem nerve, and the thinning of his pectoral muscle.
Young now believes he is healthy for the first time in years. “I’ve battled shoulder stuff, really, for the last five years,” he told The Washington Post earlier this spring. “And last year, when they finally said this is a nerve issue…my shoulder feels like it did five, six years ago.
“I’m really excited about it. I expect it to stay that way. It’s the best it’s felt in a long time. I want to get back to being the pitcher I can be.”
Young worked just 10 1/3 innings in four spring appearances for the Nationals, but he is stretched to 75 pitches from his work in minor-league games.
The Mariners released two other veteran pitchers earlier this week, Scott Baker and Randy Wolf, who were attempting to win a spot in the rotation after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery.
Baker sought his release when asked to accept an assignment to Triple-A Tacoma; Wolf was in line for the fifth spot in the rotation, but he was released after he declined to sign a 45-day probationary clause.
That left right-handers Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi as the top candidates for the final spot in the rotation. That job now, presumably, will go to Young.
Manager Lloyd McClendon has only confirmed two starters for his rotation: Felix Hernandez and Erasmo Ramirez. But the work schedule suggests rookies James Paxton and Roenis Elias will fill the next two spots.
Paxton worked six innings Thursday in a minor-league intrasquad game, and Elias is slotted to start Friday night against the Rockies at Peoria Stadium.
The Mariners also anticipate All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma and right-hander Taijuan Walker, the organization’s top prospect, should be ready to rejoin the rotation by mid-to-late April.
Iwakuma began playing catch earlier this week in his recovery from a strained tendon in his middle finger, while Walker has made two minor-league starts in his recovery from bursitis in his shoulder.
Right-hander Brandon Maurer, another rotation candidate, is on a similar timetable in his recovery from a soreness in his lower back.
The Mariners have 10 days to reach a resolution — trade, release, etc. — on LaFromboise a 27-year-old who made his big-league debut last season by compiling a 5.91 ERA in 10 2/3 innings over 10 appearances.
LaFromboise was 6-0 with a 3.39 ERA in 45 games last season at Tacoma.
Young is a nine-year veteran who went 53-43 with a 3.79 ERA in 159 starts from 2004-12 with Rangers, Padres and Mets. He was picked to the National League All-Star team in 2007 while with the Padres.
Soon thereafter, Young began battling a series of shoulder problems.
He underwent surgery in 2009 for a torn labrum, missed much of 2010 because of a strained shoulder and had surgery in 2011 to repair a torn anterior capsule in his shoulder.
Young signed a minor-league deal prior to last season with Washington after going 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA in 2012 with the Mets. Following surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, he agreed to another minor-league deal.
Getting their work in
Thursday wasn’t a day off for everyone in big-league camp. Paxton, catcher John Buck and outfielder/designated hitter Corey Hart took part in a minor-league intrasquad game.
Paxton threw 95 pitches in six innings as a tune-up for what projects as a start against the Angels in the third game of regular season. He gave up two runs and six hits while walking two and striking out five.
Buck served as Paxton’s catcher and went four for five with a double and two homers. Hart batted for both sides in an effort to accelerate his recovery from a sore right forearm. He was two for seven with two singles.