NEW YORK -- Turns out Chris Young is a talker.
Before Young became the first piece of New York's recent outfield renovation, he grilled David Wright over the phone on all things Mets. After inking a one-year, $7.25 million contract in December, Young received congratulatory calls from Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese and Eric Young. Once Curtis Granderson signed, Young again picked up the phone to talk ball with his new teammate. And as his offseason workouts progressed, he dialed up Hall of Famer Rod Carew for some help with his swing.
Interpersonal connections are important to Young, who leaned on different people this winter for different things. Through Wright, Young researched the pros and cons of joining the Mets. In Eric Young, he rekindled a friendship born out of their shared time as young players in the National League West. In Granderson, Young received advice on city life and the best places to live around the tri-state area. (He ultimately chose an apartment in Midtown Manhattan). In Carew, Young found a mentor.
"It makes a difference when you reach out to guys," Young said in an interview Wednesday via -- what else? -- his telephone. "That meant a lot to me."
The Mets hope that Young's growing cellphone bill pays dividends on the diamond, whether it's due to the new friendships he's forged or the work with Carew.
On the former front, Young said the welcoming calls from Murphy and Niese put him at ease after signing. Because Eric Young was the only Mets player he knew personally before joining the team, he appreciated the gestures.
On the latter front, Young reached out to Carew through his agent because he saw the Hall of Famer as a perfect mentor. Unlike Carew, who excelled at putting the bat on the ball throughout his career despite minimal power, Young has never hit above .257 in a season, but once smacked 32 homers. Working alongside Carew in California, Young soaked up the knowledge of a hitter who won the American League batting title seven times and finished his 19-year career with a .328 batting average.
"That was the main reason that I wanted to work with him," Young said. "That's the part of my game that I needed to improve on. It's not necessarily the power part. The power part has been there. Pretty much my entire career, I've been able to hit the ball out of the ballpark. It's the at-bats between the home runs that I wanted to improve on."
The Mets already know that Young can play defense, regardless of whether he wins his preferred job in center field or slides into one of the corner spots to accommodate Juan Lagares. What they don't know is how Young will perform offensively.
If the former All-Star produces something similar to the 23 home runs and .758 OPS he averaged annually from 2007-11 with the D-backs, Young will do wonders for a lineup featuring sizeable question marks from top to bottom. If he comes closer to the 13 homers and .701 OPS he averaged his past two years in Arizona and Oakland, Young may wish he logged even more time with Carew.
Soon, the Mets will see for themselves. Young plans to report to camp on Feb. 14, six days early, then set about showing off his offensive improvements. He may even seek out more advice from new coaches and teammates.
Only now, he won't have to pick up a phone to do it.