SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Michael Young changes the music on the stereo in the Texas Rangers clubhouse, then takes the bat between practice swings and uses it like a guitar as he mimics the hard-rock riff.
A new first baseman’s mitt is among several different gloves in Young’s locker. There is a smile on his face while joking around with teammates.
Though the Rangers’ longest-tenured player and career hits leader requested a trade this offseason and is changing positions again, Young is “completely comfortable” in the clubhouse.
“This is my home away from home being with these guys,” Young said Monday. “I obviously have a lot of loyalty toward them, I know they have a lot of loyalty toward me. … My place in the clubhouse has nothing to do with anything else.”
Young, now the primary designated hitter and utility infielder for Texas, played first base in a game for the first time ever — in the majors, minors or even Little League — in a Cactus League game against Kansas City on Monday.
Using a mitt borrowed from Chris Davis instead of his new one still being broken in, Young had two fielding chances in his four innings. There was an unassisted putout on a grounder and he took a throw from second baseman Ian Kinsler on another grounder. At the plate, Young was 2 for 2 with a double and a triple.
“Everything was pretty routine,” Young said. “No big surprises at all.”
Two-time Gold Glove winner Adrian Beltre was signed this winter to play third base, Young’s position the last two seasons after he had been a five-time All-Star shortstop.
The Rangers tried unsuccessfully to accommodate Young’s trade request. When he reported to spring training, he told his teammates he wasn’t going to be a distraction as the AL champions prepared for the season.
“It didn’t have to be said or addressed,” AL MVP Josh Hamilton said. “It just shows what kind of man, what kind of leader he is, and wants to put the team first more than anything.”
Young arrives at the complex about 6:30 each morning, doing a lot of early work with infield coach Dave Anderson to adjust to playing first base and reacquainting himself with second base, his position when he became a starter for the Rangers in 2001. He switched to shortstop three springs later after Texas traded Alex Rodriguez.
“After all the (offseason) stuff is finished, I have to make sure that I’m getting myself prepared to have a big year, and that’s the most important thing,” Young said. “Obviously, I feel strongly about certain things, but it’s not going to have anything to do with how I prepare for a season, and I want to make sure that’s always my No. 1 priority.
“I owe it to myself and I owe it to the guys I play with to make sure I put myself in the best possible position to have success,” said Young, who is going into his 11th season, all with Texas.
Before the Rangers finally won a playoff series and went to their first World Series last year, Young had played in 1,508 career games. That was the second-longest postseason drought for any player at the time.
The 34-year-old Young is a .300 career hitter whose 1,848 hits are the most in Rangers history. He had five consecutive 200-hit seasons (2003-07) and led the AL with a .331 average in 2005.
Asked if he felt he would still be with Texas for sure at the start of this season, Young said he didn’t really know.
“That’s one thing I learned about this offseason, it’s very unpredictable,” Young said.
General manager Jon Daniels, who has gotten inquiries from several teams about Young, has repeatedly said he will make a deal only if it makes the Rangers a better team. That mindset hasn’t changed, plus the Rangers like the role they have for Young.
“We really like our club and we’re ready to roll with the group we have,” Daniels said Monday.
Young is owed $46 million over the remaining three seasons of his contract — $15 million in each of the next two seasons and $16 million in 2013.
Manager Ron Washington said Young will be in the lineup and get plenty of at-bats as long as he is healthy, whether as the DH or in the infield.
With Ian Kinsler returning to the leadoff spot and Elvis Andrus dropping to No. 2, Young will bat sixth behind Hamilton, Beltre and Nelson Cruz. Young said he is “all for” wherever Washington wants him to hit to win games.
“Everything is going fine. I haven’t really changed my preparation. I have to do more early work at different positions. That’s fine with me. Work’s fun,” Young said. “I think a common misconception in this game is that veteran players are what they are, and I don’t accept that. … Baseball is a skills game, and I want to make sure mine are always getting better.”