Nats invite Young, Batista to camp
Veterans will report to Minor League accelerated program
VIERA, Fla. -- In need of depth in the Minor League system, the Nationals invited outfielder/first baseman Dmitri Young and third baseman Tony Batista to Spring Training on Wednesday. They will not report to big-league camp, but will go to the Minor League accelerated program starting Tuesday.
Young is insurance in case first basemen Larry Broadway or Travis Lee have problems replacing Nick Johnson, who is recovering from a broken leg and will not be ready for spring and most likely Opening Day.
Last season, Young, 33, played with the Tigers, but was given his unconditional release on Sept. 6 because of lack of performance. He was hitting .250 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs in 48 games at the time of his departure. Young missed more than two months of the season because of a right quadriceps injury and personal matters.
Young pleaded no contest to a domestic violence charge stemming from an April incident at a suburban Detroit hotel with a then-girlfriend. Upon his return, Young confirmed that he spent 30 days at a rehabilitation facility to undergo treatment for alcoholism and depression.
Talks between Young's agent, Adam Katz, and the Nationals started a month ago. The team was going back and forth about giving Young a second chance. By Tuesday, general manager Jim Bowden decided to give Young a second chance after receiving the go-ahead from team president Stan Kasten. Young and Bowden worked together for four years when both were with the Reds. Young had his best years in Cincinnati from 1998-2001.
"We talked about it for a long time," Bowden said. "Stan and I had probably three conversations on the subject, going through the pros and cons, understanding from a [public relations] standpoint how this would come out, and both Stan and I felt it was the right decision for the franchise."
Bowden said the team will have a no-tolerance policy if Young has problems off the field again.
"Dmitri Young has been through an awful lot, personally, over the last several years," Bowden said. "He has been extremely apologetic for the mistakes he has made in his life. He has asked for a second chance in life. He comes in knowing the organization has zero tolerance. Any incident whatsoever that may take place, if it does happen, he'll be released at that time. He understands that. Dmitri is a very good kid."
Katz said Young is looking forward to being given a chance to make the Major League roster sometime in 2007.
"He has passion for the game and wants an opportunity to contribute," Katz said of Young. "He respects and knows Jim. He can't wait to prove himself."
As for Batista, this will be his second stint with the organization. In 2004, Batista was the starting third baseman with the Expos and he hit .241 with 32 home runs and 110 RBIs. He also played outstanding defense.
Batista was looking for a big raise after making $1.5 million in '04, but the Nationals were not willing to give it to him. The team signed Vinny Castilla to a two-year contract instead.
Batista then played one year in Japan and returned to the United States in 2006 to play with the Twins. He was also released after a few months with the team.
The chances of Batista playing for the big club are slim because Ryan Zimmerman is set at third base. Batista can also play shortstop and second base, but he hasn't played either middle-infield position in several years.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.