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Nats near two-year extension for Young

Nats near two-year extension for Young

PHILADELPHIA -- First baseman Dmitri Young is close to signing a two-year extension with the Nationals, according to multiple sources. The move would come a few days after the team signed infielder Ronnie Belliard to an extension. It also means that Young is off the trade block for the rest of this season.

Young declined to comment and general manager Jim Bowden was not available for comment. The sources said that Young will receive $5 million per season plus an option year.

Young is the most important player on the Nationals this season. He is pacing the Nationals in hitting (.333), RBIs (53) and on-base percentage (.386).

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Young also is the No 1 reason the Nationals' clubhouse went from being one of the worst in team history to one of the best in the game today. He is the leader and is always trying to give a young player a helping hand. In fact, Young was seen trying to help rookie left-hander John Lannan before the latter made his Major League debut on Thursday.

"We need people like him to lead our team," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "You have guys like me who are younger and will be here for a long time. We are learning as we go. To have a guy like him, who has been through everything in this game, I think it's great for our organization. With the people that we have coming up from the Minor Leagues, if Dmitri can just be here a couple of years when they break in, there is not a better person to mentor [the young guys than Dmitri]."

Young has come a long way. Young thought his career was over after the 2006 season. He was released by the Tigers and was put on probation for domestic violence. His plan was to drive his camper across the country and watch his siblings, including Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young, play sports. But Delmon and his father, Larry, told Dmitri he had too much left in the tank to quit.

The Nationals were the only team interested in Young. He had a history with Bowden, as the two worked together when both were with the Reds from 1998-2001.

Bowden wasn't convinced that Larry Broadway and Travis Lee would provide the consistency with the bat, so he invited Young to Spring Training. The Nationals told him there was a no-tolerance policy if Young had problems off the field again. They would release him the moment he got himself in trouble.

Now, Young is part of the Nationals' future.

With Young set to sign the extension, it means a couple of things: He will play left field starting next year. Most of Young's experience with the glove has come in the outfield. He has played 403 games in left and 103 in right field.

"[Young] has to lose 20 pounds to play left field," said one source with knowledge of the situation.

That shouldn't be hard for Young. Early this year, he entered Spring Training out of shape and lost at least 20 pounds and became the regular first baseman because Nick Johnson broke his right leg and has yet to play a game this season. There is still no timetable when Johnson will return.

With Young's future secured, what happens to left fielder Ryan Church? It's no secret that members of the "think tank" are disappointed in his offensive production and would like to trade him.

The Cubs are interested in Church, but Bowden is asking too much for him. It is believed that the Cubs view Church as an extra outfielder.

The Cubs were looking to acquire Church's services during the Winter Meetings, but nothing ever came of it.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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