PHOENIX — Chris Young has been a staple in center field through three Diamondbacks managers, three general managers and two color schemes. He was an integral part of two NL West champions, played in an All-Star Game and was the first rookie in major league history to have a 30-home run, 25-stolen base season.
Young has played healthy and he has played hurt, as he has done in each of the last two seasons. Most of all, he has played and contributed — his 884 games are second only to Luis Gonzalez in franchise history, and he is in the top five in virtually every offensive category.
Young has scaled the center-field fence to bring home runs back in Colorado and San Diego, and he caused the only hissy-fit in Chase Field history, when Chicago Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly threw his glove to the mound in disgust after Young’s home run in Game 2 of the 2007 NLDS, a series the D-backs swept in three games. If he has not won a Gold Glove, it could be because no one was paying attention.
He has earned his manager’s great respect, and from ultimate gamer Kirk Gibson, that means something.
If Wednesday is Young’s last home game here, and it could be, he will leave with a legacy.
Young said he has not looked that far ahead, but he understands that at least one outfielder will be traded this offseason. The D-backs appear to have five starting-worthy outfielders given Adam Eaton’s strong September, and a deal from strength is a sensible path for general manager Kevin Towers as he shops for a shortstop, bench players and perhaps a starting pitcher.
“I’m not singling myself out and saying I’m going to be going somewhere,” Young said. “Chances are, come 2013 spring training, it (roster) will be different. I’m sure all 25 guys won’t be here. It’s just a matter of who is getting added and who is getting subtracted. It’s just part of the game.
“I haven’t put thought into it too much. A rumor is a rumor, and you can’t really control anything about that. You just stress yourself out because it is not in your control. It is not in your hands. So you just have to find peace and continue to be yourself and do the best that you can day in and day out.”
There is certain to be a market for Young if the D-backs choose to go that way, as there would be an even larger market if the D-backs pull the trigger on a major deal involving his good friend and clubhouse neighbor Justin Upton.
Young is hitting .231 with 24 doubles, 14 home runs and 41 RBI, but it has been a season sabotaged by injuries. He returned from a 2011 wrist injury to hit five home runs and drive in 13 runs in the D-backs’ first 11 games before suffering a right shoulder injury when he collided with the left-center field fence after catching a long fly ball from Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez on April 17.
Young missed exactly two months, came back too early — both Young and Gibson have said that — and had to work to regain his stroke. After returning to form in mid-August, Young suffered a strained quadriceps while running out a grounder Sept. 3 and has started only once since. He is not expected to start in Wednesday’s finale but could be used as a pinch-hitter, as he has done six times since the injury.
“It’s kind of been a crazy year. He started off so good, and then he hurt himself making an incredible play,” Gibson said. “I think he really was affected by it. The thing that was tough for him, he was trying to get back to where he left off before he got hurt. That’s almost unfair. It was kind of a bad trap.”
“C.Y., that’s how he is. If he’s not full go, he will never tell you. A lot of guys won’t tell me but they’ll tell somebody else and I’ll get the information. C.Y. doesn’t tell anybody. He’s just very dedicated, hard-headed, competitive. He has the demeanor, ‘OK, I’m a little broke right now. So what?’ I can certainly relate to and respect that from him.
“I wish he would have never got hurt. I think it would have been a different season for us.”
Then-general manager Josh Byrnes’ first trade in the winter of 2005 was to acquire prospect Young from the Chicago White Sox, and it worked out. Young is second in franchise history in doubles, stolen bases, extra-base hits and at-bats; third in RBI and home runs and fourth in hits.
Upton joined the outfield in 2007, and the two have played side-by-side since. It would be new and strange if that were no longer the case next year.
“That’s my homey,” Young said. “It would be tough for sure, just because pretty much my entire career, I can look to my left and see him there. I’ve created plenty of friendships. If someone was to go somewhere, or if I was to go somewhere, I would miss everybody. If someone else was gone, I would miss that person just as much.
“No matter who it was, it would be tough to send that text out saying ‘it was fun playing with you.’ This is my family. That’s how it is when you are in sports. You create a bond and a relationship. If you have to go somewhere else, it’s like starting from scratch.”