Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/1/12
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- One of the lasting memories from the Diamondbacks final game of the NLDS in Milwaukee last October was Chris Youngs Willie Mays-replica, over-the-shoulder catch in deep center field that left Jerry Hairston Jr. staring in disbelief. He looked as if he wanted to file a protest. That play goes to the reason D-backs manager Kirk Gibson kept Young in the lineup despite a swing-wrecking wrist injury in Kansas City in June that greatly affected his hitting stroke throughout the second half of the season. Young is back to himself now, judging by the line drives he is hitting in early spring training, and the injury does not appear to be an issue any longer. Even back then, for the D-backs and their appreciative pitching staff, it was about the math. Twenty-seven outs are greater than four at-bats. "We all knew that he was hurt, but he was tough enough to try to go out there and grind it out," said 21-game winner Ian Kennedy. "For me, having him out in center field is very valuable. Just running things down. You saw how many times he saved my butt. You knew he struggled at the plate, but he didnt want to get taken out." D-backs hitting coach Don Baylor can relate on two fronts. Baylor was a never-give-an-inch player in a 19-year major league career that included an AL MVP award, and he also played alongside eight-time Gold Glove winner Paul Blair in Baltimore in the early 1970s. Having Young in center field is like Paul Blair being out there. Hes going to run them down for you, hes going to get a hit every now and then to make a difference, Baylor said. "Hes healthy this year. He is determined to have a better year. I told him if he played as much as he played last year, he could drive in 90 to 100 runs. Hes going to be committed to staying in the middle, hitting to right field. Last year was one-half of the field -- the left side of the field. The batting adjustment was not by choice. Young suffered thumb and wrist injuries while making a diving catch at Royals Stadium in late June. He hit his 15th home run of the season in the first game of that series June 21, but the injuries had an effect, forcing him to change his stroke and become more of a pull hitter. A bad swing would cause him pain, forcing him once into a day off. After hitting .262 with 16 homers and 50 RBIs before the All-Star break, Young slumped to .193 with four homers and 21 RBIs after the break. He went 135 appearances without a homer until hitting a three-run walk-off shot against Houston in the tenth inning of an 8-5 victory Aug. 11, a game that was extended by Paul Goldschmidts two-run, two-out, two-strike homer in the last of the ninth to tie it at 5. Young adapted to do what he could. He worked deeper into counts, eventually setting a career high with 80 walks. He still took inside pitches to left field and finished with 38 doubles. Through it all, he played gap-to-gap defense in a home park where the power alleys run to 390 feet. Young committed three errors and was rated by one metric as the second-best defensive outfielder in the NL behind the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton. By another, he was ranked third. Young has looked fluid in early spring training hitting sessions and calls himself fully healthy as he enters his sixth major league season. "The wrist is feeling amazing. It just needed rest. Its one of those things that nags if you continue to play with it. It takes more than a few days to get better. The time off definitely helped my body heal. By all means, Im 100 percent right now, said Young, who last year hit .236 and added 22 stolen bases, the third time in his career he reached 20. At the same time, Young added, "I wouldnt change how I did anything. It was something I had to play through. I would play through it again if I had to. Ill continue to work on everything and get better." Gibson, who played through many injuries himself, understood what Young was feeling last year. "Me, I always said that when I was struggling, I didnt want to come out. Maybe you call it hard-headed. Pride. Partly ego. Thats what you are there to do -- fight through the tough times. I never wanted to be pulled out. "My manager asked me, 'Do you want a day off?' Id say no. If they took me out, maybe deep down inside it was the right thing to do," Gibson said. "'CY' is kind of the same way. To have him out there when he struggles or when he is hurt like that, its a great example. He doesnt complain about it. He just shuts his mouth and plays every day. He brings it every day." Gibson was asked if being fully healthy could allow Young to produce better offensive numbers. He said he does not look at things that way. "I think he did fine last year. Do we all want to be better? Sure. I have no problem with him in any part of the game. I dont look at it specifically in every segment of his game," Gibson said. "Ive told you this before: Im looking for winners. Is Chris Young, in your estimation a winner? He is in mine." Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter
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