Rangers: Michael Young will be DH

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said Thursday that Michael Young will be the club's designated hitter on Opening Day.

"I expect to have Michael Young, and if everyone else is healthy, he'll be the DH," Washington told Galloway and Company on ESPN 103.3 FM in Dallas. "We're just trying to make our team better. But Michael Young will be at DH come Opening Day, April 1."

Washington has stressed in comments to the radio station and ESPNDallas.com this week that the Mike Napoli trade will not impact Young's playing time and that there are enough at-bats to go around.

The Napoli deal has led some to wonder if the Rangers are attempting to trade Young, who has three years at an average of $16 million per season remaining on his contract. But Washington is planning on writing Young's name on his lineup card on April 1 against Boston at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"He's a key producer on this team," Washington told ESPNDallas.com. "Michael is going to play and be a big part of what we're doing. We need him in the lineup and he'll be there. This [trade] doesn't change that."

Washington has talked repeatedly about Young's value on and off the diamond. The 34-year-old remains the leader of the team and Washington credits his steady work ethic and professional approach for helping the club navigate the uncharted waters of the postseason in 2010.

Washington said when Napoli is the DH (probably against left-handed pitching as Napoli has been one of the top hitters in the league against lefties the past few seasons) that Young would probably play the field. Napoli could play first against left-handers and Young would DH in those situations.

"He'll be penciled in every day that he's healthy," Washington said. "The only time he won't be penciled in there is when there are days when I feel like he needs time down."

Washington said he hopes to get Young on the field an average of twice in a seven-game period. He wants to use Young to get the infielders rest and maybe protect Mitch Moreland against tough left-handers.

Young hit .284 with 21 homers and 91 RBIs in 2010 and ended the second-longest active streak without a playoff appearance at 1,508 games. Young was at third base all of 2010, but his role has changed with some of the Rangers' offseason moves.

Texas signed Adrian Beltre to a five-year guaranteed contract (for $80 million) with a $16 million vesting option for a sixth year. That shoved Young to DH and a super-utility role for this upcoming season.

Washington said he plans to make sure Young gets a chance to play some games in the infield as the manager wants to get rest for Beltre, shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler. Young will likely play some first base in spring training as well, though the signing of Napoli means Young probably won't have to play much at first, the only infield position that he hasn't played in the majors.

Washington also noted that his club has had its share of injuries during its tenure and that Young and Napoli could see even more time depending on who is on the disabled list.

"You can't predict the game of baseball," Washington told ESPNDallas.com. "Injuries and other things pop up. We have to be ready for that. Everyone will get a chance to play. They may not play every day, but if they don't, it's not that they aren't a part of what we're doing. It just means it's their day off. Everyone needs a day off, and we have guys that can step in."

Washington said Young assured the team that he's willing to do whatever he needs to do in order to help the team win as long as he continues to get his at-bats.

"Barring injury, I don't foresee anything getting in the way of that," Washington said on ESPN 103.3 FM on Thursday. "And Michael will get on the field. Human nature says you can't be overjoyed about something like that. Michael is a professional and needs some time to deal with it. I can tell you this: Once we hit spring training, Michael Young will be in there all business to help us defend our American League championship."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.