Orioles' Delmon Young eager to play bigger role in 2015

Delmon Young produced consistently as a pinch hitter in 2014, but he could have a greater role with the Orioles this season.
Delmon Young produced consistently as a pinch hitter in 2014, but he could have a greater role with the Orioles this season. (David Banks / Getty Images)

It didn't become a top priority until they had already lost outfielders Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz to free agency, but the Orioles always wanted to re-sign designated hitter-outfielder Delmon Young.

Despite the fact that Young was initially seeking a multiyear deal, he settled for a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Orioles that also includes an additional $750,000 in incentives. Young said he wanted to come back to Baltimore.


"There's always a chance you're going to sign somewhere, [and] there's a chance you're not going to re-sign somewhere, but my first goal was to come back here just because I like just being in a place where you're guaranteed to have an opportunity to defend a division title," Young said Saturday at the Orioles' FanFest. "It could have been cool going to a different place and trying to win another one, but it's always a lot better to defend what you earned the year before.

"Just playing in a division I always like to play in, the East. Every team in the division is always going to be competitive every year, and our team is going to be very competitive. We have all of our pitching and bullpen coming back, except [left-hander Andrew] Miller. We had a good bullpen before he came, so as long as we have a lot of pitching on our team like we have, you always have a chance to win the division."

Young said he considered options to play elsewhere, but ultimately staying in a familiar atmosphere was important.

"You [could] get to see a new city, and when it's all said and done, I can say I've been to all these different places, I would think," Young said. "But the guys are good here. It's fun just to try to come back to a place where everything's very comfortable. This city's very comfortable. It's easy to get around, and the travel's good around here."

Young put together a solid 2014 season in a part-time role, hitting .302/.337/.442 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 255 plate appearances. He was 10-for-20 in the regular season as a pinch hitter, and he might have provided the biggest hit of the postseason when he came off the bench to hit a go-ahead, three-run double in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers.

With the losses of Markakis and Cruz, Young could play a bigger role in 2015. He made 38 of his 56 starts last season in the designated hitter spot, but he could see more time in the outfield.

Young doesn't have the reputation for being a great defensive outfielder, but he could play some in right field, especially against left-handed pitching. In his career, Young has been a .302 hitter against lefties -- even though he hit .312 against right-handed pitchers last season.

"Going back to right field, that's where I spent most of my time my whole life," Young said. "Having platoon splits and everything, I don't mind going back to right field. Left field, I don't too much care to be over there, but right field is a lot more comfortable. It's where I played, where I have most of my reps at in the minor leagues."

Young finds himself in a much different position from last spring, when he was trying to make the Opening Day roster after signing a minor league deal and receiving an invitation to spring training. This season, he has a roster spot -- and likely a more prominent role -- but he said he won't change his spring training approach.

"I always go into spring the same way, get there at the crack of dawn, do all my stuff, try to have everything down," Young said. "Results in spring are good to have, but I'd rather make sure my mechanics are pretty sound going into the season because it's a lot different hitting spring training to when the lights come on in April."