Young battling diabetes, competition

Young battling diabetes, competition

VIERA, Fla. -- First baseman Dmitri Young was extremely happy on Oct. 2, 2007. That was the day he was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year.

Besides talking about his successful season with the Nationals that day, Young vowed that he would monitor his diabetes much better and lose weight. The baseball schedule didn't allow him to follow a routine the way he wanted.

Right after the season ended, the Nationals gave him a cookbook for diabetics to follow. Young also has hired a chef to make the food properly. Unfortunately, Young came into Spring Training without losing any weight. He is listed at 291 pounds in the media guide.

To make matters worse, Young has yet to play in an exhibition game because he pulled a muscle in his left side. Young injured himself while swinging a bat in the cage last month. Young is feeling better, however, and is taking ground balls and batting practice. Starting this weekend, Young is expected to play in games at the team's Minor League complex.

"It was one of those freak things," Young said about his injury. "Better to do it now than do it when you are ready for the regular season. I feel good. I took some swings. I felt [a little pain], but that is something that you can work out.

"I will go to the accelerated camp and get six or seven at-bats. ... We can do baby steps into that."

Young needs to get better fast because he is competing with Nick Johnson for the starting job at first base. Johnson has fully recovered from his right leg injury and has looked good on the field.

General manager Jim Bowden said it's early in camp, so there is plenty of time for Young to compete with Johnson.

"I'm not worried about it. If this were March 20, it would be a concern. We have plenty of time," Bowden said. "We have to get him right and we are doing everything we can to help him."

Young tried hard to lose the weight during the offseason. He did his exercises and even tried to go on a hunger strike for a day, but the results remained the same. Doctors have now come to the conclusion that the insulin he was taking was the reason he was unable to lose weight. The doctors are changing the medication in hopes that Young can drop a few pounds.

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"In the past, I could lose weight like that," Young said. "Not losing the weight this offseason didn't make sense. I did all the exercises and I feel like I'm in shape, but as far as losing the necessary weight, that didn't happen.

"The insulin puts on weight instead of helping you lose the weight. We are trying different medicine and stuff. That's where the frustration comes from. It has nothing to do with anybody or anything. I'm trying to learn about this disease and I have to deal with it. I'm not trying to use it as an excuse. The doctors came in and they said the insulin could have put on the weight. They said it's like hit or miss. We'll try something else."

Young was first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in November 2006. In fact, he spent four days in the Cleveland Clinic in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that month. Three of those days, he said, were spent in the intensive care unit. His blood sugar level was at 893. The doctors told Young he should have been dead.

Today, Young is alive and well and one of the Nationals' leaders in the clubhouse. Young brought in his personal doctor to help him control his diabetes and the Nationals hired a nutritionist to help him lose weight.

"There are different alternatives, Young said. "I've been on the same medication since I've been diagnosed. I would say it's about time for a change."

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