Young vows to punish Father Time

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Michael Young has been showing up for spring training for nearly half his life now. But he swears he had “butterflies” before Sunday’s Cactus League opener against the Kansas City Royals.

At age 35, Young is coming off one of the most remarkable seasons of his career. He hit .338 with 106 RBI and 213 hits. He’s one of only 16 players in major league history with at least six seasons with 200 hits. Some of the other names on the list: Ty Cobb (nine seasons), Lou Gehrig (eight) and Rogers Hornsby (eight).

Young’s supposed to be in the twilight of his career, but he doesn’t seem to be taking the hint. A huge NBA fan, Young said he heard Charles Barkley say recently that “Father Time” had caught up with Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki. And when I asked him about his own aging process Monday, he didn’t mince words.

“I don’t really buy the whole ‘Father Time is undefeated’ thing,” Young said. “I totally disagree. Paul Molitor whipped Father Time’s ass, Nolan Ryan whipped Father Time’s ass . . . as we speak, Mariano Rivera is whipping Father Time’s ass. So I don’t buy that, I mean when you start losing the fire, losing the passion, I think that’s when certain things happen.”

It’s clear that Young hasn’t lost his passion for the game. He stood at first base Monday on the main practice field taking grounders as shortstop Elvis Andrus playfully taunted him from across the diamond. Andrus replaced Young as the team’s full-time shortstop in ’09, and Adrian Beltre relieved him at third base at the start of last season. He was upset with the way general manager Jon Daniels handled that situation last offseason, but he showed up at spring training and accepted his new role as utility fielder/DH.

The only thing Young has added to his offseason training regimen in deference to his age is Pilates, which is also something Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd has used to extend his career.

Young is once again dealing with change this spring training, although it’s relatively minor. It appears that manager Ron Washington will move Beltre to the cleanup spot and drop Young to No. 5 in the order. Young doesn’t seem bothered at all by the move because he knows that sluggers Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz will be behind him. With all due respect to the Tigers and Yankees, it remains the most dangerous order in the majors.

Young fell into a slump at the No. 4 spot during last year’s postseason, but Washington stubbornly refused to drop him in the order. The Rangers manager is extremely loyal to his players and was reluctant to give Young a demotion despite the damage Cruz was doing from the No. 7 hole.

Washington believes that Young has the potential to play four or five more seasons, in part because of how he’s taken care of his body.

“In Michael’s case, he has tremendous work ethic,” Washington told FOXSportsSouthwest.com. “He’s not going to take the game for granted. He continues to do it with the same vigor.”

Washington believes that as long as Young has that vigorous approach, his experience will “kick in” and allow him to put up big numbers. Though he hasn’t said this, I think Young felt like not playing in the field every day might undermine his ability to lead. Interestingly, just the opposite has happened.

Young has gained even more credibility in the clubhouse for how he’s handled the situation. And no matter where he hits in the order, he remains one of the most effective leaders in baseball.

The Rangers said they attempted to accommodate Young with a trade before last year’s spring training. It’s a good thing they weren’t successful.

Father Time has ended many a career, but he’s not making much progress with Young.