Young's unusual routine yields benefits
Right-hander practiced Pilates in offseason to strengthen core
PEORIA, Ariz. -- In the pursuit of good health in the offseason, Chris Young transformed his body into a 6-foot-10 pretzel, coaxing it into an assortment of coils and curls called the Spine Twist, Swan and Corkscrew, among others.
By Young's own guess, the Pilates routine he adhered to during the winter was beneficial to no end, and it probably made for great theater for the participants who stretched next to the All-Star pitcher during class.
"Being in San Diego ... there were a few fans that would mention things or would say hi from time to time," Young said on Wednesday, shortly after a workout concluded at the Padres facility in Peoria.
Young said the strange glances from curious onlookers quickly faded -- that is, if the same onlookers knew the benefits of Pilates, a muscle-strengthening routine that Young adopted to help strengthen his core, including the two trouble areas (oblique and back) that derailed his 2007 season.
"I think it's been extremely beneficial -- my body feels great," Young said. "That normal soreness from Spring Training hasn't occurred. I'm pretty happy with the way my body feels right now. I feel my core strength has made significant strides. ... Hopefully, it will translate into a good season."
Young, 27, was certainly on his way toward a good season -- and, quite possibly, a great one -- in 2007, having gone 8-3 in the first half with a Major League-best 2.00 ERA and an All-Star Game appearance to boot.
Then in late July, Young -- boasting a 1.82 ERA at the time -- suffered an oblique injury just two innings into a start in Colorado. He went on the disabled list and when he came off, he wasn't the same, due largely to a lower back injury he suffered. Many believe it was because he was over-compensating or protecting the oblique.
"I never had a season where I had a significant injury that, even when I came back, I had to be conscious and aware of it," Young said. "I had to learn to play through pain, to an extent, trying to push my body to see what I was capable of. There were probably times where I should have backed off a little."
Young didn't win a game over the final two months of the season and his ERA climbed from 1.82 to 3.12, as he slowly worked his way back to his first-half form. He believes that he was getting there, as evidenced by the two runs on two hits over six innings he allowed against Milwaukee on Sept. 29, a game the Padres lost in extra innings.
"As we moved through September, he wasn't quite all the way back but he was gaining on it," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He was still able to compete but wasn't totally fine. I think from a stuff standpoint, when he came back, that's probably the thing that was different than the first half, velocity was down a little bit. His command wasn't quite where it was the first half."
Of course, there's no certain way of telling if the oblique injury directly or indirectly was a cause for the back injury. Young has done some second-guessing as to whether he came back too soon, though he realizes there's no good in such a futile exercise.
"I would like to believe if I didn't have the oblique, I could have avoided the back injury," Young said. "The muscle spasm came, I think, from compensation from my mechanics, protecting my oblique a little bit whether I knew it or not. I think it is something you do subconsciously to protect yourself. Maybe I should have taken a little more time."
Once the season was over, Young took teammate Greg Maddux's advice and visited the same physical therapist Maddux and several professional golfers -- Tiger Woods being one of them -- sees for what Young called a "full-body evaluation."
"He helped me identify the areas of concern," Young said. "I took that stuff and went to [Padres strength coach] Jim [Malone] and he designed a program to help strengthen those areas."
Yet another change for Young, who is 20-13 with a 3.30 ERA since being traded to the Padres before the 2006 season, this offseason was a different kind of preparation: He's going to be a father for the first time. Young's wife Liz, is scheduled to give birth to a girl --- Catherine Elizabeth -- on March 7.
"I've never this excited about something in my life in a different sense. Baseball gets me excited, but in a different light," Young said. "We don't know what to expect. We're both a little nervous. We've been around children, but never our own. I just hope everything goes smoothly and we get a healthy baby.
"I think it's great timing in Spring Training to have the baby around and still being able to do my baseball work."
Pilates included. After all, it's just as easy to become a pretzel in the desert as it is in San Diego.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.