KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Chris Young filed paperwork today to opt out of his minor-league contract with the Nationals, but the veteran right-hander said he's still hopeful something could be worked out to keep him in the organization.
Young, who started tonight against the Astros and allowed one unearned run over four strong innings, will return to Viera after the game and wait to learn tomorrow whether the Nationals will put him on their Opening Day roster. He knows that's not going to happen, barring a last-minute injury, but he's been in talks with them about finding another way to remain with the organization.
"I'm realistic. I know the roster's full," he said outside the clubhouse at Osceola County Stadium. "I understand that. We've talked about maybe trying to work something out to where I can stay. We're not there right now. But there's interest from other clubs. I just have to weigh all the options and see what's best for me and my family and my career."
The Nationals have no available spots in their big-league rotation, and Young said they haven't discussed the possibility of pitching out of the bullpen. So any potential deal between the two would probably involve Young opening the season at Class AAA Syracuse but then having another opt-out clause that would allow him to become a free agent if he's not promoted by a certain date.
The 33-year-old said he has drawn interest from other teams, perhaps some willing to give him a big-league job right now, but he also expressed a desire to remain with the Nationals after a positive experience this spring.
"I'll say this: I love it here," he said. "I would love to stay. This has been just a terrific spring training, being around a great group of baseball people. I know I've said this, and it's probably redundant, but there's nothing negative to say about this place. Maybe that they're 15 pitchers deep. But aside from that, I'd like to work something out if I can be here. But if not, I understand the circumstances. There are five great starters here, and I realize there's no spot at this point."
Though his fastball velocity remains in the low 80s, Young has been effective in recent outings this spring. He allowed one unearned run on two hits tonight against the Astros, throwing 38 of 61 pitches for strikes. He hasn't surrendered an earned run over his last 12 innings now and boasts a 2.25 ERA in four total starts.
"I thought [tonight] was overall the best of my spring," he said. "The command of my fastball was good, command of my slider both sides of the plate. Worked ahead in the count most of the night and felt good. So in a normal spring, I'd say I'm right where I need to be in preparation for the season."
The Nationals would prefer Young report to Syracuse and serve as insurance in case one of their five starters gets hurt, but they won't prevent him from taking a major-league job elsewhere.
"He's had a great spring for us," manager Davey Johnson said. "I'm sure he'll probably get a job somewhere. The ball's in his court."
Young, a 2007 All-Star with the Padres whose career was derailed by a major shoulder injury, said he feels as prepared for a major-league season as he has in several years.
He just doesn't know where or when his next start will take place. And, much as he's tried not to think about that over the last month, he admits that's been tough.
"I don't like to admit that, but it has," he said. "It's just a different situation and circumstance than I've been in the past in my career. But it is what it is. I've spent probably too much time going through different scenarios and ways it's going to work out. And, really, the only thing I can control is how I pitch. So that's my focus. I try to remind myself when I start to lose track of that.
"I love being out there. I love competing. I love pitching. It's fun. The other side of things makes it difficult."