VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young played in his first exhibition game of the spring on Thursday night, and showed that he didn't lose anything with the bat. He went 2-for-3, including a home run off right-hander Jason Schmidt, in a 6-3 loss to the Dodgers.
The switching-hitting Young, who was invited to Spring Training on Feb. 14,
had been working out in the team's accelerated camp and playing intrasquad
games at the Carl Barger complex, but the Nationals were playing split-squad
games against the Tigers and Dodgers. Instead of playing against his former
team, the Tigers, the Nationals informed Young on Wednesday to travel with
the team to Vero Beach.
Young was slated to come off the bench, but the Nationals decided at the last minute to let him start at first base over Larry Broadway, and Young didn't waste any time showing the team that his bat still had some life.
In the first inning, with Schmidt on the mound, Young collected a two-out single to left, scoring Kory Casto and giving the Nationals a 2-0 lead.
Two innings later, Young took Schmidt's 2-1 pitch and hit an opposite-field home run that hit the scoreboard.
After the game, Young was pleased that he was able to perform well against one of the top pitchers in the game, and credited the Nationals' Minor Leaguers for motivating him to do well.
"It all in a day's work," Young said during a conference call with Washington reporters after the game. "You don't realize who you are facing until you get there. I was going against one of the best. The Nationals wanted to see if I still have it. I've been rejuvenated by being there with the young guys, because they are hungry to be where I've been and I'm hungry to get back to where I've been."
The last time Young was in the Major Leagues was last season with the Tigers, but it turned out to be his worst season ever. Besides being released by the Tigers and being put on probation because of domestic violence, Young learned this past offseason that he has type 2 diabetes. He said the illness is under control and that he doesn't have any problems playing baseball. Young said before going to Vero Beach that he was going to have an energy bar to nibble on
during the game.
"That's something I have to live with on a daily basis -- until the day I die," Young said. "I have to have something constantly to nibble on. The trainers are well aware of it. They have probably dealt with other people with diabetes before."
In the stands at Holman Stadium was general manager Jim Bowden, the person who gave Young his first big break as a starting outfielder in Cincinnati and a second chance in Washington. Bowden said Young had tremendous bat speed
and played very well at first base.
"Between him swinging the bat and the stretch at first base, he was impressive tonight," Bowden said. "What has impressed me the most about Dmitri is that in the
accelerated program, he was a tremendous leader and a great influence on our players in terms of work ethic and taking players like Chris Marrero and Smiley Gonzalez under his wing. He is giving back to the young players. His
attitude has been great and his work ethic is phenomenal."
Young said he is going back to the Minor League camp on Friday. He is
expected to play at least three Minor League games and then return to Major
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.