BOSTON -- Chris Young got a promotion Sunday, and all he had to do to earn it was keep showing up.
Young, signed by the Boston Red Sox to a two-year deal last winter to be a fourth/platoon outfielder-type, is now Boston’s starting left fielder after Blake Swihart's left ankle sprain landed him on the disabled list. Brock Holt, Young’s platoon-mate the first month-and-a-half of the season, is still trying to work his way back from a concussion.
That makes Young the man in left. He went 2-for-4 in his first game in that role Sunday, and one of the hits was a homer to end Toronto Blue Jays righty Marco Estrada's no-hit bid after 7 1/3 innings. Toronto ended up winning, 5-4.
“Your pride tells you that you want to be the guy to [break up the no-no] if the opportunity comes,” Young said. “That’s what I was trying to do.”
Both of Young’s hits -- he also had a line-drive single in the ninth -- came off of right-handers, first Estrada and then Jays closer Roberto Osuna. That runs counter to Young’s numbers on the season.
Young originally received most of the playing time against lefties because he hits them so well. Against southpaws in 2016, he owns a .414 average with a .485 on-base percentage and .690 slugging mark. Against righties, those numbers are .224/.296/.510.
That’s a more extreme version of a trend that has followed Young throughout his career. Whether his squaring up a couple of fastballs Sunday is a one-game blip or a beacon of hope that he can offer production against pitchers of all handedness remains to be seen.
“I’m trying to go out there and battle every day, no matter who is on the mound,” Young said.
Curiously, all four of Young’s homers this season have come against righties.
“Everybody else makes more of a big deal about it than I do,” he said. “I think it’s just a coincidence.”
Either way, playing regularly represents to Young a chance to get out of his own head. It’s easy while sitting on the bench, he said, to wonder when he might get in a game, what pitcher/inning/out-runners situation might lend itself to a pinch-hitting opportunity.
His new gig takes away the guesswork.
“The only way it’s easier is that you know the situation that you’re coming in -- you’re starting,” Young said. “When you’re not starting, you find yourself trying to play manager in your head to try to see what situations are going to come up for you to bat. So trying to get loose throughout the game, try to [anticipate] the opportunities that you may go in the game. It gets tough at times, but I wouldn’t say easier or harder.”
Added Farrell: “To his credit, he has stayed ready when he has not had everyday at-bats or regular at-bats. We’re able to turn to a quality big-leaguer in the role that he’s in.”
To be sure, Young is no stranger to playing every day. He’s done so for most of his career. But this will be his first time doing so in Boston, where attrition -- and, in the case of fourth outfielder Rusney Castillo, ineffectiveness -- has sapped the Red Sox of their left-field depth.
Young will take it.
“I love playing, just like everybody else in this clubhouse,” Young said. “Any time I’m playing, I’m a happy guy.”