Just because you see 6-foot-10 and 262 pounds, don't think New York Mets pitcher Chris Young is a menacing, right-handed version of Randy Johnson. Young has never been a power pitcher and now that he's coming off shoulder surgery, guile is even more important.
Young showed plenty of it Thursday morning with six shutout innings for the Buffalo Bisons. The outing came on a rehab start during the Herd's 3-0 loss to the Columbus Clippers before a season-high Kids Day crowd of 13,631 in Coca-Cola Field.
Young gave up just two hits (one on the infield), struck out two and walked three. And how off-balance were Columbus hitters against off-speed pitches mostly ranging from 75-78 mph? The Clippers made seven outs on infield pop-ups.
"At this point in my rehab, it's about feeling good most importantly but you'd also like to have the results to go with it," said Young, an All-Star in 2007 with the San Diego Padres. "Today, I had both. It's a work in progress, still things to improve upon, but I was happy with the results, happy with the way I felt and it was fun being in a fun baseball environment."
Young only got to 83 or 84 mph with nine pitches Thursday, according to the scoreboard radar gun, but generally only throws in the mid-80s.
"I worry about life and the ball had life to it," he said. "There weren't that many hard-hit balls and the results were good."
"Honestly I thought his velocity was better than it was last year," said Mets/Bisons catcher Josh Thole, down on rehab to catch Young and get in four at-bats. "I don't know what the board had but personally the ball was coming out of his hand much better."
Young went 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three starts at Class A St. Lucie (Fla.), needing nine days before the final start because of a brief dead-arm period as well as the birth of a child. Several New York media outlets said Thursday night Young will make one more Triple-A start, likely Tuesday at Columbus, to see that he can pitch on normal rest.
"The dead arm is something I normally go through every spring and most pitchers do," he said. "We were a little bit extra cautious with it because I'm a year out of surgery but it's bounced back great. It feels strong."
The Mets need someone to fill the slot left open by the season-ending injury to Mike Pelfrey. They're pretty well set otherwise with Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese. No one among Chris Schwinden, Miguel Batista or Jeremy Hefner has done much (1-2, 6.23 in six starts).
"If he feels good, I think [Young] is ready for the big leagues," Bisons manager Wally Backman said. "Maybe he needs another start if that's what he wants, to try to sharpen up a couple things."
Said Young: "The team is off to a great start and obviously I want to be a part of it. I feel good and given the results today I feel like I'm pretty close to being ready."
While coaching third base, Backman said Columbus players told him Young had a tough downward angle on his delivery that was creating all the popups.
"He pitches to angles and different heights in the strike zone," Backman said. "He can go up and away for a strike and down and in for a strike with not only his fastball, but with his breaking stuff. He knows how to pitch."
The loss allowed Columbus to salvage the final game of the four-game series and dropped the Bisons to 9-7 on the longest homestand in their history. Columbus got all three of its runs in the seventh off reliever Chuck James (0-1), including Beau Mills' leadoff homer to right. A trio of Columbus pitchers held the Bisons to just four hits.
Center fielder Corey Wimberly was a late scratch due to a sore elbow and Backman said it will be a few days before the Bisons know more about his injury. Following the game, Thole and red-hot reliever Elvin Ramirez (3-0, 14 2/3 scoreless innings) were called up by the Mets and struggling New York reliever Manny Acosta accepted his outright assignment to Buffalo.
Jeurys Familia (4-1) will be the starter for Buffalo in the series and road trip opener tonight in Toledo (7 p.m. Radio 1520 AM).