Saturday, March 11, 2000

Young glad he didn't trade places

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dmitri Young
        SARASOTA, Fla. — As Dmitri Young stared down Ramiro Mendoza in the first inning of Friday night's exhibition game against the New York Yankees, the Reds left fielder saw no irony. Just another pitcher.

        Though the Reds never proposed a Young-for-Mendoza trade, the Yankees were known to have explored the possibility of such a deal. Of fensively, Young would have been a good replacement for Darryl Strawberry, the suspended outfielder-designated hitter. Mendoza, who has mostly pitched in relief while helping New York win the last two World Series, would have been a starter as a Red.

        Like most proposed trades, this one died a quick death. But not before Young was prodded and poked with questions about his supposedly iffy future as a Red.

        “I wasn't worried about it to begin with,” said Young, who grounded out to Mendoza in his only appearance against him. “It's "go' time. Once I got on the field, all that other stuff was secondary.”

        Though Young heard the rumors, he didn't let them bother him.

        “When you're not really busy, you seem to ponder stuff,” he said. “But once I'm

        busy playing, I could care less. As long as I get to play, get my at-bats and get ready for the season, I'm not concerned what comes out of people's mouths.”

        Especially when a lot of it is “Gibberish,” said Young, finishing the sentence.

        Deals involving Mendoza and Young remain possible, but they probably won't be traded for each other, at least in the foreseeable future.

        Insiders claim the Yankees could trade Mendoza to Anaheim for center fielder Jim Edmonds immediately, if they were so inclined. But New York manager Joe Torre, who values Mendoza's versatility, wants to keep him.

        Young, who has hit .306 with 78 doubles and 139 RBI in two years as a Red, appears destined to open the season in Cincinnati. But the scene could change if spare outfielders Michael Tucker and Alex Ochoa perform well or a contending team needing a big bat offers attractive pitching for Young before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

        That could become a distraction for Young in midsummer, but for now he's concentrating mainly on upgrading his outfield play. He improved vastly last season, committing four errors after making 10 in 1998.

        Having polished his defense as a right fielder, Young must return to left field, where he struggled two seasons ago.

        “A lot of people think it may be troublesome for me,” said Young, dismissing those concerns as an “exaggeration.”

        Young was often pulled for defensive reasons late in games. His goal is to become competent enough to convince manager Jack McKeon to leave him in.

        To that end, Young has kept refining his outfield technique with coach Dave Collins almost every morning.

        “I think it's an adjustment period for Dmitri,” Collins said of Young's switch.

        Young will keep working.

        “Any man with any sense of pride knows that he doesn't want to be a weak link anywhere,” he said.


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