NEW YORK -- Chris Young's two seasons with the Mets coincided with Terry Collins' first two years as their manager. Collins watched Young undergo season-ending shoulder surgery after four terrific starts in 2011. He admired his resolve as he battled all the way back to factor into 2012, kept tabs on the towering right-hander in the years that followed and wasn't the least bit surprised that he found his way here, in the starting rotation for a World Series team.
Watching Young take the mound for the Royals in Saturday's Game 4 (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, with game time at 8) will evoke contradicting feelings.
"If you know Chris Young, you root for him," said Collins, whose Mets won Game 3, 9-3, but still trail in the Series, 2-1. "Unfortunately I'm on the other side of the field, so I don't want to root hard for him. But he's one of the best people you'll ever meet. He's worked very, very hard to come off the different injuries he's had -- his shoulder, his back. You cheer for him."
Young will oppose Mets rookie left-hander Steven Matz and will do so on three days' rest, after throwing 53 pitches in three hitless innings of emergency relief -- and capturing a victory -- in a 14-inning Game 1.
Royals manager Ned Yost said Young will have "no limitation," and Young said his body "feels fine."
"Physically," Young said, "I'm not worried about bouncing back."
Young missed more than five months with a strained right shoulder in 2010, then joined the Mets on an incentive-laden one-year contract in January 2011.
Through May 1, his ERA was only 1.88. Then he re-tore his shoulder capsule, underwent season-ending surgery, rejoined the Mets on a Minor League contract the following year, came up from Triple-A in early June and finished the season off healthy, posting a 2.73 ERA in September and ultimately making 20 starts.
"I have a lot of friends over there; I have a great respect for their organization," Young said of the Mets. "I'm grateful for the opportunity they gave me. And certainly to see them and their success over the last few years, since I last played here, it's great. I'm happy for them. I just hope we find a way to beat them."
Yost remembers how baffled he was that his team couldn't do anything against Young last season.
A bout with thoracic outlet syndrome -- essentially a nerve issue that puts stress on the shoulder -- kept Young out of the Major Leagues while with the Nationals in 2013. By 2014, though, Young was with the Mariners and had made it all the way back. He won 12 games and posted a 3.65 ERA, claimed the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award and suffocated Yost's Royals at every turn, limiting them to two runs in 15 innings.
Said Yost: "I never could figure out why nobody could hit this guy."
But then the Royals signed Young in early March -- as rotation depth, for a mere $675,000 -- and Yost stood behind home plate to watch one of his bullpen sessions.
"You see the deception of a guy that's 6-foot-10 with his fastball," he said. "His slider, the bottom drops out of it. The changeup is invisible at times."
Young hasn't thrown a single pitch harder than 90 mph these last two seasons, and yet he's held opposing hitters to an unseemly low batting average on balls in play. It was .238 last year and .209 this year, while going 11-6 with a 3.06 ERA. He's a fly-ball pitcher, but he uses his deception and an impressive spin rate -- seventh best among pitchers who threw at least 1,000 fastballs during the regular season -- to generate weak contact.
Yost sent Young to the bullpen for seven weeks at the start of August, largely to keep him fresh for the stretch run. Now he's seemingly at his best. His fastball has jumped a couple of ticks in the month of October, and he's struck out 15 batters while giving up just three runs in 11 2/3 postseason innings.
"I hope tomorrow night he makes a few mistakes," Collins said, "but you've got to be on his side."