Young believes he can contribute at big league level

Young believes he can contribute at big league level

VIERA, Fla. -- Whether or not Wednesday was Chris Young's last start with the Nationals this spring, he will surely have made a strong closing argument for himself and his future.

Young's outing against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium was the best of his three Grapefruit League appearances (he also pitched in a Minor League intrasquad game), as he scattered two hits and one walk over five shutout innings. He struck out two while throwing 64 pitches.

"There's still work to be done, progress to be made, but it's an improvement," Young said. "That's the way spring's supposed to go. You're supposed to get a little bit better each time. I feel like I've made strides."

Manager Davey Johnson said after the game he hopes Johnson will start again for the Nats on March 25 in Kissimmee, but that would mean Young's opt-out date of March 24 had come and gone. The Nationals signed the 6-foot-10 right-hander to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp to bolster starting depth.

Young was honest and realistic about his options on Wednesday, emphasizing how much he's enjoyed his time with the Nationals, but his belief is that he's a big-league pitcher.

"It's something my agent and I will discuss and see if there are any opportunities out there and see where they may be," Young said. "There's a lot of stuff that I'm going to have to evaluate. I love it here. I've had a great spring. ... Just being around a winning team, it's so much fun. You can tell how good this team is and it's fun to be around."

If he'd be facing a future with Triple-A Syracuse, he says he's more likely to take a Major League deal elsewhere, if offered. But if it's only Minor League options, he's happy with the Nats.

"To turn down a big league opportunity to go to Triple-A is probably not in my best interest," Young said. "If I'm weighing Triple-A options, this would be at the top of my list. If I'm comparing a big-league opportunity to a Triple-A option, I think you guys would all do the same thing."

With Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez absent for some of the spring to participate in the World Baseball Classic, Young has been one of a handful of starters to receive extra opportunities. In three Grapefruit League outings, he's allowed four runs in 12 innings, scattering nine hits and six walks.

"He's Chris Young," Johnson said. "He's a heck of a pitcher. He knows how to pitch. We've certainly had troubles with him when we faced him, and he's the same kind of guy. He reads hitters well, makes his pitches up, doesn't give in to anybody."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.& This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.