Chris Young, 33, the right-handed starter re-signed to a minor league deal earlier this month to serve as depth for the Nationals starters, is slated to make his first minor league start of the season on Tuesday night. Barring any rainouts, and there have been a fair share of postponements already in Syracuse this season, Young will start for the Nationals’ Class AAA affiliate against Rochester.
The 6-foot-10 starter has been in extended spring training in Viera, rebuilding his arm strength after not throwing for 10 days when he opted out of his original minor league deal with the Nationals on March 26. Young, who thrives by using his high arm angle to deceive hitters, tossed five innings in his last start in extended spring training. According to a person familiar with the situation, Young’s command and velocity have looked fine.
After Young filed paperwork last month to exercise the opt-out clause in his original agreement, both sides remained open and optimistic at reaching a new deal. Young “loved” his time with the Nationals in spring training and the team wanted him back because Young, of 159 career major league starts, would be their best option to start should any Nationals starters suffer an injury.
The amount of money and performance bonuses agreed to in his new deal was also a sign of how much the Nationals wanted him to return. The new agreement has no opt-out clauses, but the General Manager Mike Rizzo said he was open to a release if an opportunity to start in the majors arose for Young.
>>> It was quite a weekend for several Nationals pitching prospects. Nate Karns was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week after striking out 13, allowing one run, two hits and a walk in seven innings in a 4-1 win for Class AA Harrisburg over Altoona on Saturday.
The following day in Harrisburg, right-handed starter Blake Treinen, acquired in the Michael Morse trade, allowed two earned runs in seven innings on seven hits, walked none and stuck out eight. He has hit the mid-90s with his fastball and it was his second straight strong start after two rough ones to begin the season. Left-handed reliever Ian Krol has a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings spread over seven appearances, including two scoreless innings on Sunday. Opponents are hitting .171 off him and he has struck out eight.
In Class A Potomac on Saturday, right-handed starter Taylor Hill was nearly perfect in seven innings, striking out seven and allowing only one hit. In four games, three of them starts, he has a 1.42 ERA. The following day, left-handed starter Robbie Ray allowed one earned run in six innings on two hits and four walks and struck out 10 batters.
Nationals officials have been impressed with Ray, 21, so far this season. While he still needs to improve his walk ratio (10 in 23 innings), Ray has a 1.96 ERA and 26 strikeouts. Last season, his fastball was around 90 mph but has hit 96 mph this year. Ray, who was signed to a lucrative $799,000 bonus for a 12th round pick in 2010, struggled last season at Potomac logging a 6.56 ERA over 21 starts but, according to one team official, has finally adjusted and showing flashes.
>>> Outfielder Eury Perez, who has been on the disabled list with a sprained wrist in Syracuse, is improving and is expected to return soon. He last played on April 13 and is hitting .355 with two stolen bases in seven games. Syracuse outfielder Corey Brown, who is also on the disabled list with a injury to his side although unclear if it was an oblique strain, last played on April 14 and is still day-to-day. Brown is hitting .257 with two home runs in nine games.