June 20, 2011 at 9:00 AM
Since being drafted by the Red Sox in the seventh round of the 2009 draft, professional baseball has been a perpetual waiting game for Madison Younginer. After receiving a $975,000 bonus to sign just before the August 15 deadline, Younginer waited nearly a year – pitching in the Fall Instructional League and extended spring training in the interim – before finally making his professional debut the following June with the Lowell Spinners.
Then, thanks in part to strained intercostal muscle, the start to Younginer’s 2011 season was similarly postponed. He had been expected to break camp with the Greenville Drive, but because of the injury and some related mechanical work, Younginer instead stayed behind in extended spring training. As a result, he has once again reported to the Lowell Spinners, the team with which he spent his 2010 season.
“I came back from that injury and my mechanics were a little bit off, and we had to smooth a few things out, which was a lot easier to do down there in extended than it would have been in front of the fans at the stadium,” he said recently at Lowell's media day.
The resulting change in destination from Greenville to extended spring training and Lowell was tough to deal with for the 20-year-old righty. Playing for the Drive would have meant playing less than 30 minutes from his hometown of Simpsonville, S.C.
“I went down to spring training early, telling everybody, ‘I’ll be back in two months. See y’all soon,’” he admitted. “When I had to break it to them that it was going to be a little bit longer than two months, that’s always hard to do. They’re always asking, ‘when’re you gonna be up here?’ But that’s just part of baseball, and things like that just teach you to be a stronger person, to not let that affect you on the field.”
Instead, it’s back to Lowell for Younginer, who will look to improve on a 2010 campaign that may have been disappointing to observers who were expecting big things out of the box. Younginer said that improving his walk rate was a priority this season after he walked 31 batters in 62.0 innings last year, as was continuing his work to smooth out his mechanics. The unexpected stint in extended spring training may have been a blessing in disguise for Younginer for that reason; even before the injury, improving his somewhat violent mechanics had been viewed as a key point in Younginer’s development.
Regardless of where he is pitching, one advantage that Younginer has this year as opposed to last is familiarity with the routines of professional baseball.
“I’m used to it now,” Younginer said of pitching in the minors. “No matter where I would’ve been, I’d have had the same comfort level. But there are a lot of familiar things around here, just from playing last year.”