Dmitri Young: rested and ready. Well, sort of.

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Interesting story about Dmitri Young in the Washington Times.
Young, you’ll remember, was given one of baseball’s more, well,
unexpected contract extensions when Jim Bowden gave him $10 million for
2008 and 2009 a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, he only played 50
games last season and has been completely MIA so far in 2009 due to
back trouble and bereavement leave and general Dmitri Youngishness. He
wants to play, of course, but there’s no room in Washington unless Nick
Johnson is traded. Young wouldn’t mind being traded himself, but
there’s a slight problem with that:

There isn’t anyone interested in a 35-year-old singles-and-doubles
hitter who is a liability in the field and who has a history of trouble
with his back and with diabetes. And who is owed $5 million this season.

Yeah, that kind of stuff tends to get in the way. Still the most gobsmacking part of the story comes with this passage:

In his mind, though, he believes he could have been playing in the
majors months ago. Having shed 40 pounds from a 6-foot-2 frame that
once weighed in at 330 and having successfully controlled his diabetes
thanks to a strict diet, medicine and exercise regime, he said it has
been four years since he has felt this well.

That’s pretty amazing if true. And a little sad, because given his
contract situation, there’s no incentive for anyone to give Young a
second look at this point. But if he were made available for the league
minimum, wouldn’t it be worth it for some AL team to take a chance on
him? Yes, he’s provided many unintentional laughs over the years, but
he has also hit pretty damn well (he’s only two years removed from a
.320/.378/.491 season). If he were released by the Nats tomorrow and
could show that he’s reasonably healthy, couldn’t he be a Matt Stairs
figure? Couldn’t he be useful making a spot start here and there and
serving as a reasonably dangerous pinch hitter?

OK, maybe that’s a stretch. I’ve just always had a soft spot for
Dmitri. He’s got his problems, but the guy is funny and passionate and
smarter than he’s given credit for, and I’ll always hope that there’s a
place for a guy like that in the game.

Hell, bench coaches don’t do anything. Maybe that would be a good place for him . . .

Ryan Zimmerman’s spring training has been . . . weird

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Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.

While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.

Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.

I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.

On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.