If not for a Brennan Boesch thumb injury, Delmon Young may well have finished out the year as a soon-to-be non-tendered disappointment on an almost 100-loss Twins team.
And if not for a Magglio Ordonez injury, Young might still be sitting out the ALCS because of a strained oblique suffered last week against the Yankees.
But the stars aligned for Young, whether he deserved it or not, and he hit his fourth and fifth homers of the postseason in Thursday’s Game 5 win over the Rangers.
Young was much maligned in Minnesota and deservedly so. After his big breakthrough season in 2010, he spent the first 4 1/2 months of 2011 playing as if he didn’t much care, particularly not while stationed in left field. He hit just four homers and drove in 32 runs in 305 at-bats for the Twins. He cleared waivers in August, and the Tigers, needing an outfielder with Boesch hurt, took him off Minnesota’s hands for little in return.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland showed confidence in Young right away, installing him as the No. 3 hitter in front of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. He then homered in his very first at-bat for the team — against the Twins, no less — and he went on to hit seven more in 40 regular-season games.
Young faced a hurdle in the ALDS against the Yankees, injuring his oblique in Game 4 and sitting out Game 5. The Tigers disabled him for the ALCS in part for tactical reasons: they knew they could find a way to bring him back if they wanted to, whereas if he stayed on the roster and reinjured himself during the ALCS, he might have to be disabled for the World Series as well. Young went on to replace Ordonez on the roster after Game 1 against the Rangers. Still limited, he went 0-for-4 in Game 2, sat out Game 3 and then put together another 0-for in Game 4 prior to the Game 5 outburst. The second homer today even knocked in someone besides himself for the first time (he had four postseason RBI previously, all coming on solo shots).
The 26-year-old Young would seem to have a future in Detroit, regardless of what happens the rest of the month. He’ll probably make $6.5 million-$7 million next year in his final season of arbitration, or the Tigers could roll the dice and try signing him to a two- or three-year deal. It’d be a risky move with his often indifferent defense and his inconsistent offense, but he certainly possesses unrealized potential and now he someone who might be the key to unlocking it in Leyland.