SEATTLE — Veteran right-hander Chris Young, who resurrected his career this season with the Mariners, was selected Monday as the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year by The Sporting News.
“It means more than I can articulate now,” said Young, who battled shoulder injuries over much of the previous six seasons. “I think we all understand how hard this game can be, and the challenges it presents.
“At times, it challenges us in ways we could never expect or know how to handle.”
Miami third baseman Casey McGehee was the National League recipient.
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Young received 49 of the 112 votes cast by AL players. Detroit outfielder J.D. Martinez was second with 22, followed by Oakland pitcher Scott Kazmir (14) and New York shortstop Derek Jeter (11).
McGehee got 26 of the 64 NL votes. San Francisco pitcher Tim Hudson was second with 17, and Los Angeles outfielder Matt Kemp was third with 15.
Young is a pending free agent but has expressed interest in remaining with the Mariners, who have exclusive negotiating rights with him through the fifth day after the conclusion of the World Series.
General manager Jack Zduriencik previously identified the need to acquire a veteran starting pitcher, such as Young, as one of the Mariners’ off-season priorities.
“I would love to be back,” Young said. “This was the most fulfilling and gratifying season of my career. I love the people, the organization, the city, the ballpark, the fans. There’s nothing not to like.
“I would love to be part of finishing off what we’ve started. That being said, I understand that it’s a business, and it might not be in the best interest of the Mariners or vice versa.”
Young, 35, was 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA after missing much of 2013 while recovering from a third shoulder operation. He signed March 27 with the Mariners as a free agent after being released by Washington.
“What a godsend for this rotation,” manager Lloyd McClendon. “He’s just been tremendous…I’m not sure where we’d have been without him.”
The Mariners pulled Young from their rotation late in the season after he went 0-3 in a five-start stretch while allowing 19 runs in 18 1/3 innings.
“I think the innings have piled up,” McClendon said, “and that’s to be expected. He’s coming off surgery. He’s only human. He’s given us everything that he had and probably a little bit more. He’s tired.”
Young insisted he felt strong but said he understood the move.
“I can’t argue with their reasons,” he said. “We’ve got to give the team the best chance to win. But I still believe in myself and will be ready anytime they need me.”
Young is already working on an off-season conditioning program to guard against wearing down next season.
“I’m excited about being able to go right into training versus rehabbing,” he said. “There’s a big difference…working on areas that need improvement overall — versus just having to concentrate on my arm or shoulder.”
The Sporting News’ Comeback Player of the Year award dates to 1965 and is the oldest of three such awards.
Young is also a finalist for the same honor in The Players Choice Awards, which were established in 1992. That award is presented by the union and determined through a vote by players.
Major League Baseball began presenting its own comeback award in 2005.
Young is the fifth Mariners player to win The Sporting News award. Designated hitters Willie Horton, Richie Zisk and Gorman Thomas won in 1979, 1981 and 1985; and pitcher Gil Meche was the 2003 recipient.
Last year’s winners were Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera in the American League, and Pirates starter Francisco Liriano in the National League.
Young helped the Padres reach postseason in 2006 and was picked as an All-Star in 2007 before encountering a series of shoulder problems. As a last resort, he underwent surgery on June 11, 2013 for thoracic outlet syndrome.
That procedure treated Young’s injury as a nerve issue rather than a shoulder problem. Dr. Robert Thompson, a nerve and vascular specialist, performed the surgery in St. Louis.
“They took out a piece of my first rib,” Young said. “About a 3-inch segment of my first rib. They cleaned off some of the neck muscles that were wrapped around the nerve.
“I woke up from surgery, and it was the first time in a long time that my shoulder didn’t hurt. The incision was sore, but the shoulder didn’t hurt. Right then, I felt pretty good about the way things went.”
Young became a free agent late in spring training after failing to win a spot in Washington’s rotation. The Mariners signed him to a one-year deal for $1.25 million after failing to reach agreement with veteran lefty Randy Wolf.
“I want to go to a situation where I feel like is beneficial to both parties,” Young recalled, “and (where I) can contribute to a winning team. When the Mariners called, I felt like this is the perfect situation, the perfect fit.
“And, it played out better than I could have even imagined at the time.”