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O's gamble on Delmon Young, are rewarded in a big way

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — A headline from April on Camden Chat, a member of the SB Nation, read:

"Why is Delmon Young on the Roster?"

The story, of course, then proceeded to go through the myriad reasons why Young shouldn't be on the Orioles roster.

Today, there's a good chance that writer's opinion no longer stands in Baltimore — not after Young came up with his latest SportsCenter moment, a three-run, go-ahead double in the eighth inning of Friday's victory over Detroit.

The Orioles signed Young in January for a couple reasons. One, he crushes left-handed pitching, and that was desirable, given all the ace left-handers in the American League East. Two, he slays the postseason.

Orioles' Delmon Young, a former Tiger, hits a three-run triple in the eighth inning to give the Orioles a 7-6 lead on Friday.

Young doesn't play good defense, when he plays defense at all. He doesn't run. He doesn't have plate discipline. But the Orioles still figured, late this offseason, that he could help. And with just a single at-bat in this American League Division Series, he's helped, big-time.

That didn't mean signing Young was a no-brainer.

"Dan (Duquette, Orioles GM) brought that possibility to me and had been talking to his agent, and we talked about it and looked at the track record and what he had done," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You look at him just purely statistically, and you go, 'Why is this guy available?'

"So as most clubs do or all clubs do, you go, 'What are we missing here?'"

Turns out, there's a reason Young, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2003, has bounced around his entire career, from the Rays to the Twins, to the Tigers, to the Phillies, back to the Rays, and eventually to the Orioles. He's had his issues, mostly involving his temper.

Two incidents stand out most: While a minor-league in the Rays system, he disagreed with a strike-three call so much, he flung his bat at an umpire. Years later, with the Tigers, he got into a past-midnight, drunken altercation with a New Yorker outside the team hotel. He's also battled conditioning issues, so much so that the Phillies set weight-clause escalators in his contract last year.

With the Orioles, though, all's been calm.

"I spent a lot of time with him in the mini-camp when he came in, and did a lot of homework on him," Showalter said. "The one thing we felt like was the actual performance in games would be there.

"It was the other things that, you know, we had to get our arms around, and that's been solid since Day 1."

Showalter was quick to remind folks that maturity comes at a different pace for different folks.

"He's just 28, just turned 29," Showalter said. "We're always one bad decision away from something, you know? Like I told him, none of us like to have our lives judged by our worst decision. And the big thing is, if you get an opportunity, you better run through that door. And he has."

Young had an interesting role this year, one he's not used to. He wasn't an everyday player. For the first full season of his nine-year major-league career, he didn't play 100 games. The Orioles picked their spots in starting him. Occasionally, he played left. Usually, he DH'd. And, like Friday, he pinch-hit a lot. It's that role in which he really flourished, batting .500 in 20 at-bats during the regular season.

Young's brother, Dmitri, the former Tiger, told The News this week he thinks the fact the Orioles cut down on Delmon's workload might've actually made him a better player. He seems fresher this time of year.

For the season, Young hit .302 — the first full time he's topped .300 — and posted one of his widest gaps between batting average and on-base percentage. Heck, he even hit right-handed pitching better than left-handed pitching.

The Tigers go with a lefty Sunday, Young's former teammate David Price. So expect to see the Game 2 hero go in Game 3.

"If you look at Delmon, he would be the first to tell you that some of his challenges have been self-inflicted," Showalter said. "I'm proud of him."