Michael Young helps push Dodgers along

SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' front office is on a nice little roll.

After most people had given up on Carlos Marmol, the Dodgers acquired him in exchange for an overpaid reliever and have received better-than-solid relief from the former closer. The only thing Edinson Volquez led the league in was hits allowed when the Dodgers scooped him up, and he has given them three pretty good starts.

Brian Wilson went from health risk to the team's No. 2 right-handed reliever.

But perhaps the Dodgers' best in-season acquisition, Michael Young, may have been the least-popular move at the time. When the Dodgers traded lefty Rob Rasmussen to get Young from the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 31, it wasn't exactly universally lauded, particularly by the statistically minded. All he has done is bat .384 in a role he has never played and, on Sunday, come up with the only meaningful hit of the game in a 1-0 win over the San Diego Padres.

It's fair to say the Dodgers are happy with their return on investment thus far. Young could even play a key role in October, which was kind of the point of the trade, both for Young and the Dodgers.

"He's where he wants to be. He's in a good situation," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We've talked about it before. Guys get older and they like to play for something."

Young cracked a run-scoring double to right field Sunday, one of the Dodgers' only signs of life against the Padres' hard-throwing pitcher, Andrew Cashner.

It's fitting that Young got the start against Cashner, because he's likely to get a spot start or more in the playoffs against hard-throwing pitchers. Juan Uribe has resurrected his career this season, but with his big swing and tendency to step toward third base, he's often susceptible to pitchers who throw in the mid-90s and faster.

Young, who has a short stroke and an up-the-middle approach, tends to hit good fastballs. That could come in handy against any of the possible playoff matchups the Dodgers face. All the potential opponents have hard throwers.

The Dodgers signed Young largely to pinch hit, a somewhat puzzling move considering he had barely done it before this season. Of the 1,965 major league games he had played before Sunday, he had started 1,926 of them.

And yet Young seems to be adapting. He's 5-for-8 as a pinch hitter and he's certainly not complaining about it. He had a full no-trade clause and could have vetoed a trade from the Philadelphia Phillies if all he were looking to do was beef up his numbers.

Young has been to the World Series twice with the Texas Rangers, but never won one.

"I knew what my situation would be when I got here," Young said. "I try to hit the ball as hard as I possibly can every at-bat, so it doesn't matter what my situation is. I try to keep my routine very similar."

Every day, Young studies the opposing starting pitcher whether he's in the lineup or not. He spends games sitting in the dugout watching that pitcher, in case he's called upon and he usually is.

"I just try to make sure I'm in the flow of the game," he said.