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The Rounding Third Report

By
Leland Roberts

(Note: This is part one of a two-part interview. Part two will appear in this space next week.)

Mike Mussina. Jack McDowell. Rick Helling...

Over the years, the Stanford baseball program has produced a number of outstanding pitchers who went on to have great success in the professional ranks. Salem Avalanche (Class-A Rockies) right-hander Jason Young is in line to follow in those footsteps, and he shared some of his thoughts with us before a recent Carolina League game in Frederick.

A second round selection of the Colorado Rockies in 2000 who signed too late to play last season, Young has certainly started his first professional season on a positive note. Through his first seven starts, the 21-year-old has posted a 3-1 record to go along with a 2.96 E.R.A. and an outstanding 36:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

"I don't like to walk people," said Young of the aforementioned ratio. "I'd rather people get a base hit off me or something like that than to walk anybody. I don't like giving free runners."

Statistics aside, Young has spent his first couple of months in the minor leagues trying to learn as much as possible.

"I'm doing a lot of just opening my ears and listening to what the coaches have to say to me, and learning from Mac (pitching coach Bob McClure, a longtime major
leaguer) especially, and just opening my eyes. There's a few guys here that have been here (in professional baseball) for awhile and it's easy for me to learn just by watching them."

The learning process for Young, a California native, has not only entailed adjusting from college to professional baseball, but also adapting to playing on the other side of the country.

"The main difference I've found between college and professional ball is I'm getting an opportunity to throw some more fastballs and...pitch inside a little bit more with the wood bat as opposed to aluminum. (I'm) getting to learn a little bit more just how to pitch."

Of course, another difference is that the season is much lengthier in professional baseball than in college, so has Young, known for being an intense competitor at Stanford, had to change his mental approach at all?

"Maybe a little bit. I'm still going out there trying to do what I can to help the team win every time I go out there. That's my main focus. Every time I go out, I'm (trying to) work on something and do what I can to help the team win. That aspect, that part of me, hasn't changed and I don't think it ever will."

In regards to changing coasts, Young mentioned that his father's side of the family is all from Pennsylvania and that they have come to see him pitch a few times, adding that he has appreciated the opportunity to visit with relatives that he had not seen in years.

As for hitters who visit the batter's box to face Young, they will find that his pitching arsenal includes a fastball generally in the low 90's, a curve, and a change-up.
One national publication reported that Young's fastball touched 97 mph at Stanford, but that may not be accurate. "Probably on my best day, I'm hitting 94. So far this year, I've topped out at 93, that's about where I pitch. I'm not so much concerned about velocity as I am about location and movement."

To this end, Young mentioned that McClure has "been stressing fastball location." Furthermore, Young noted that he has been "working on the two-seamer and trying to get more ground balls," which should certainly help prepare him to pitch in the altitude of Coors Field. He has also been "learning quite a bit (about) trying to pitch to situations," adding that "the overall experience has been absolutely great, I've absolutely loved it."

As for his curve and change-up, McClure's "working with me on trying to sharpen up my breaking ball a little bit," said Young, while pointing out that his "vulcan" change-up, so called for it's unusual grip, "was one of my better pitches in college."

Speaking of his college days, one reason why Young may have lasted until the 47th pick last June was because he missed a couple of starts last season with "a little inflammation in my shoulder," an injury which is a non-issue now.

In fact, the Rockies conducted extensive tests on him to verify his good health before signing him for a franchise-record $2.75 million bonus last September. "They said I passed with flying colors," said Young with a laugh, "so I guess I'm alright. I hope I am. I'm not going to worry."

With a healthy Young on the mound, the only people worrying were Stanford's opponents, because Young was one of the greatest pitchers in Stanford history. He finished his college career with a record of 22-5 and a 3.78 E.R.A. in 293 innings pitched, including a 5-1 record in 62.2 post-season innings. Furthermore, his 327 career strikeouts rank fourth on Stanford's all-time list, according to Stanford's official athletics web site, www.gostanford.com.

It was during his All-American sophomore season that the name Jason Young first became well known to baseball fans. Young led the Pac-10 with a school-record 178 strikeouts in a Stanford-record 154.2 innings pitched. Along the way, he tossed 10 complete games en route to compiling a 12-3 record and a 3.43 E.R.A. More importantly, he helped lead the Cardinal to Omaha for the College World Series and showed what a great competitor he is in the penultimate game of the 1999 series.


 

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