VIERA, Fla. -- Chris Young signed late this spring, joined the Nationals after camp had already opened and is trying to get his mechanics all the way back to normal following several years of shoulder trouble. So the veteran right-hander understands results right now are far less significant than the progress he makes start to start.
And Young did make progress in his second outing of the spring, allowing one run over four innings against the Astros but more importantly getting his mechanics closer to ideal form.
"Today was progress, for sure," he said. "A step in the right direction. Command was a little bit better. Still not exactly where I want it, but it's still spring training. Overall, I think there were some positives."
Though he's making progress, Young may not have much more time in Nationals camp to make an impression. He's currently filling in for Ross Detwiler, who has been pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, so he'll lose that starting job once the left-hander returns in the next week.
Young also faces a decision on March 24, the day he's allowed to enact an opt-out clause in his contract and become a free agent.
Make no mistake, other teams are scouting the 33-year-old former All-Star. And if one of them is willing to offer Young a spot in a big-league rotation, he'll probably jump at the opportunity.
The question is whether he's shown enough in two Grapefruit League starts, totaling seven innings, to convince others he's worthy of a major-league job.
Davey Johnson believes he has.
"Yeah, I do," the Nationals manager said. "I like him. He's a smart pitcher. He locates the ball well. He knows what he has to do to be successful. And I like his repertoire. And I think today was more of an indication how he can pitch. The first day he was a little rough, but that's to be expected. He was a lot sharper today, and I'm sure next time he'll be even sharper."
Young insists he's not approaching these outings any different than he did in previous camps when he was assured of a job, but it must be in the back of his mind.
"To me, I'm not thinking about auditioning," he said. "I'm just focused on going out and making good pitches. I know what I'm capable of doing when I feel healthy. I feel healthy, I feel strong, I feel like arm issues are behind me and I'm excited for a great season. So that's my focus: preparing for a season, preparing the same way I always do."
Young's afternoon got off to a shaky start when he left a 1-2 fastball up in the zone and Astros leadoff hitter Marwin Gonzalez deposited it over the right-field fence. But he didn't allow another run the rest of the day and struck out three while walking two, throwing 43 of his 72 pitches for strikes.
"Chris Young was real good," Johnson said. "He had a good outing. He's good to have here. ... I thought he was a lot better today the second time out than the first time. I thought everything was sharper."
Whether Young gets another opportunity to take the mound again for the Nationals -- or whether he chooses to remain with the organization altogether -- remains to be seen.