Young preaching patience for season woes
Despite Phils' struggles, outfielder optimistic for strong finish, playoff push
PHILADELPHIA -- Delmon Young speaks of patience when he discusses himself and his team.
Give them time, he said.
Of course, time becomes less of a luxury the closer the July 31 Trade Deadline gets. Young enters this weekend's series against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park hitting .222 with six doubles, six home runs, 17 RBIs and a .677 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 148 plate appearances. The Phillies are 35-38 with the fifth-worst run differential (-50) in baseball.
Young and his teammates need to pick up their play if they expect to stick together and make a run at a postseason berth.
"I just want to do well," Young said Wednesday. "I think I'm trying to do too well, instead of just coming out and just playing baseball. I want to get to the playoffs. I want to help the team win ballgames. I like Philadelphia. I like the city. I like my teammates, so I want to be here longer than this year. I'm trying to do too much, trying to playing catch up since I already missed the first month."
Young, who missed all but one game in April while recovering from right ankle surgery, speaks about patience because of his history.
He had his best season with the Twins in 2010, when he hit .298 with 46 doubles, one triple, 21 home runs, 112 RBIs and an .826 OPS. But through his first 125 plate appearances that year, Young hit .250 with four homers, 16 RBIs and a .742 OPS. Last season with the Tigers, Young hit .267 with 27 doubles, one triple, 18 homers, 74 RBIs and a .707 OPS. Through 126 plate appearances, he hit just .226 with a .599 OPS.
"This is about typical for what I usually do," Young said. "I'm streaky early, then once I get settled in, everything clicks."
The Phillies signed Young to a one-year, $750,000 contract in January. It was a low-risk move for the Phillies, hoping Young could be the right-handed power bat they lost when they traded Hunter Pence to the Giants in July. Young has had some hot stretches, but they are still waiting for him to find that groove.
They said they will continue to wait, too.
"We don't have a suitable replacement for him, for one," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "Two, I do know that he isn't the most rapid starter. I think he's probably pressing a little bit. I had a chat with him about that. I just think he needs to relax. He's a much better hitter than he's shown so far, but at some point he's going to have to start providing some offense and proving he can do some things for us or we're going to have to see if there are other ways to improve the club. But right now we're going to remain patient with him. And like I said, right now we don't have a real suitable replacement."
John Mayberry Jr., who struggled last season when he had an opportunity to become an everyday player, is hitting .256 with 12 doubles, one triple, five home runs, 18 RBIs and a .752 OPS in 168 plate appearances. He regularly replaces Young in right field late in games. An argument can be made the Phillies should go with Mayberry in right because he is producing better offensively and is an upgrade defensively, but the Phillies believe Young's upside -- a American League Championship Series MVP Award in 2012 -- has earned him a longer look.
Triple-A Lehigh Valley outfielder Darin Ruf could be an option -- he presumably would play left with Domonic Brown moving to right -- but is hitting .265 with 18 doubles, seven homers, 35 RBIs and a .770 OPS in 281 plate appearances. If Ruf were producing more in Triple A, the Phillies might be more eager to bring him up.
"Delmon has a track record," Amaro said. "While he hasn't been as productive as we like, I think he can be."
Asked about Young's defense, which was a concern entering the season, Amaro said, "There were a couple occasions where there are some balls that maybe dropped in that perhaps he could have made plays on. But he hasn't been a liability for us. He's a below-average defender. We don't make any bones about that, but defensively I don't think he's hurt us or lost us any games."
But clearly the Phillies need more from Young.
"I think I've been playing catch up mentally," Young said. "Everyone has 40 RBIs, not realizing I'm a month behind in at-bats and everything. I shouldn't be trying to catch up with everybody. I should just be trying to play baseball.
"I don't feel pressure being on a one-year contract. I can relax. The only pressure I feel is trying to win. Being [eight] games out, you want to make up these games. I start thinking to myself, 'Every team I've been to the postseason with, we've always been down.' If we can get within striking distance and have a pennant race in September you'll give yourself a chance because you play in your division down the stretch."
He mentioned the 2009 Twins, who trailed the Tigers by seven games on Sept. 6 before winning the AL Central. He recalled the 2010 Twins trailed the White Sox by 4 1/2 games after the All-Star break, before storming back to win the division. The 2012 Tigers trailed the White Sox by six games on June 12, 4 1/2 games on July 7 and turned a three-game deficit with 15 games to play into a three-game lead to win the division before winning the pennant.
It remains to be seen if the Phillies can put together enough offense and pitching to make similar runs, but Young is going off his prior experiences to give him hope.
"You've just got to stay within striking distance," Young said.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.