By Brent Stecker
Of all the additions the Mariners made before the 2014 season started, the signing of pitcher Chris Young was perhaps the least heralded.
Young, 34, joined the team late in spring training to fill a need, as injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker and releases of Randy Wolf and Scott Baker left Seattle scrambling to piece together the back end of its starting rotation.
Not much was expected from Young, and for good reason – shoulder issues kept the lanky right-hander out of the majors for the entire 2013 season, and he’d just been released from the Nationals camp before the Mariners picked him up.
As worrisome as that all may be, Young’s comeback has been strong so far. He made his first start for the Mariners on Sunday, and though they lost 3-0, he kept the A’s off-balance in his six scoreless innings and appeared to have put his shoulder problems behind him.
“My arm feels really good, and when I feel good, I feel like I can pitch pretty well,” Young told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” on Monday.
Unlike most shoulder problems, Young’s wasn’t structural, but instead the pain was caused by a pinched nerve in his neck, which had to be corrected by thoracic outlet surgery. It took multiple operations to get Young back to feeling healthy, but he said it’s been smooth sailing since the last one.
“The day after surgery was the first time in really four or five years that my shoulder did not hurt. â€¦ Once I started my throwing program about four weeks after surgery I just continued throwing and it has felt better and better each week, each month.”
Despite the full year away from the MLB, Young has taken it all in stride and is still approaching pitching like he did during his All-Star season in 2007.
“I’ve been so dedicated and committed and focused on getting here and making it back and fully rehabbing from my injury, I never really expected not to make it,” Young said. “It wasn’t a goal for me just to get back. I want to get back and I wanna pitch as well as I ever had.
“The style is still the same. I attack, I’m very aggressive with my fastball, and then I pitch vertically as well as horizontally.”