Vying for roster spot, Young off to impressive spring start

Outfielder hits two-run homer vs. Nationals

Vying for roster spot, Young off to impressive spring start

VIERA, Fla. -- It happened to be a coincidence that, when Eric Young Jr. announced he signed a Spring Training invite with the Braves in February, he was in the midst of a workout with Jonny Gomes, who had signed with the Braves a month prior.

"All right," Gomes reminded him. "We're still in the middle of our workout, so let's get back to work."

The two have been working out together in Phoenix during the offseason for the past four years and -- if Young Jr. can make the roster -- could potentially be a part of a platoon in left field with each other.

"Now we have something to shoot for together," Young Jr. said Monday.

Young Jr. provided the spark in the Braves' 2-1 victory over the Nationals on Monday. On offense he launched a two-run home run to right field off Tanner Roark in the third inning. And on defense he threw Tony Gwynn Jr. out at third base preventing him from stretching a double into a triple in the fifth inning.

He is off to an impressive start this spring at an important time for the Braves, who are in need of an Opening Day center fielder after losing Melvin Upton Jr. to a foot injury during the first week of Spring Training.

"Coming in on a Minor League deal might be that chip on his shoulder he needed," Gomes said. "A little reality check. Happens quick in this game. He's hitting the ground running just like I'm sure he wanted too."

The Braves could benefit from Young Jr.'s speed and versatility on defense as well as his experience coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.

"I know what I can do for a team," Young Jr. said. "I know which level I should be on, and all I can do is go out there and play."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.