Notebook: Young forced into emergency outfield start
CHICAGO — Kevin Young dusted off his outfielder’s glove and used it in right field for the first time since 1996.
“I would have felt more comfortable with my first baseman’s mitt,” Young said after dropping a fly ball that led to two unearned runs in the Pirates’ 4-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon juggled his lineup against Cubs starter Kerry Wood, and the move coincided with some of the windiest conditions ever seen at Wrigley Field.
McClendon played Young in right field, which is where the wind was gusting toward the foul line at 16-25 mph.
“It was pretty bad,” Young said.
Craig Wilson made his first career start in left field, and he also dropped a fly ball, although it didn’t contribute to any runs.
“There was some tough wind and a tough sun,” McClendon said. “It really was a tough day to play the outfield. Sammy (Sosa) didn’t look too comfortable on the balls he caught, either.”
Young hadn’t played any outfield position since 1997 and all 10 of his starts in right field came in 1996 when he was with the Kansas City Royals. Still, he always packs his outfielder’s glove in his equipment bag — just in case. He also takes fly balls in the outfield once or twice a week and practiced there in spring training.
Going into the game, Young wasn’t concerned with the unfamiliarity of the position or the heavy wind.
“Just go out and play and don’t let the other stuff cloud your mind,” he said. “The big thing is getting the read of the balls off the bat. You can take fly balls off fungos all you want, but it doesn’t compare to what it’s like in the game.”
Of course, the first fly ball of the game was hit in Young’s direction.
“I saw that coming. I really did,” Young said. “It’s almost like picking on the new guy.”
Young turned the wrong way, but righted himself and made a basket catch on Mark Grudzielanek’s floater. He wasn’t as fortunate in the seventh when he tried to make another basket catch at the base of the wall. He bobbled Corey Patterson’s fly ball and dropped it for a two-base error. Damian Miller and Grudzielanek had RBI singles in the inning to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
“I couldn’t have asked for two balls to be any tougher than those,” Young said. “But if it hits my glove, I should catch it.”
DOWN THE STAIRS
Not only did the Pirates lose outfielder Brian Giles to a knee injury for at least two weeks, they learned yesterday that they would have to finish the weekend series without outfielder Matt Stairs.
Stairs strained his left hamstring Friday and was available only for pinch-hitting duty yesterday. Sent to the plate in the ninth inning, he struck out looking.
Stairs was injured in the fifth inning Friday when he made a running catch on Paul Bako’s fly ball down the left-field line. He expects to be ready to play Tuesday when the Pirates begin a home series against the New York Mets.
Stairs learned his lesson last season when he hurt the same hamstring in May while playing for the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I didn’t say anything, blew it out and spent three weeks on the disabled list,” he said. “I don’t want to have that happen again.”
Outfielder Adam Hyzdu, the last position player cut in spring training for the second consecutive year, rejoined the team yesterday morning in time for the game. He was removed from Class AAA Nashville’s game in Des Moines, Iowa, in the seventh inning Friday night.
Hyzdu knew he was the odd-man out when the Pirates signed free agent outfielders Kenny Lofton and Reggie Sanders. But he didn’t sulk at Nashville. In his first six games, he was 7 for 16 with four doubles, one homer and six RBI.
“You just know different things are going to happen and you have to prepare yourself for anything,” Hyzdu said.
Hyzdu, though, almost didn’t get the call. With Wilson’s playing time in the outfield expected to increase, the Pirates considered promoting catcher Humberto Cota to back up Jason Kendall.
“There was some serious thought about that,” McClendon said. “But with Stairs being hurt, we didn’t have a choice. We had to bring up another outfielder.”
Giles tried to find some humor in his right knee injury, noting that it wasn’t coincidence that the doctor who examined him was the team orthopedist for the Chicago Bears.
“He said they’re looking for a linebacker,” Giles said. “They’d like for me to be ready by mini-camp.”