In November 2007, former No. 1 pick Delmon Young modeled the Rays' new uniforms. He was traded shortly after to the Twins. After stops in Detroit and Philadelphia, the Rays brought Young back Thursday and signed him to a minor-league deal to add depth to the organization's outfield. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO
The one-time future of the organization returned Thursday when he signed a minor league contract and reported to the Rays' Double-A team in Montgomery, Ala.
If Young can prove in the next eight days or so that his swing is once again major league quality, then he could join the Rays for the September push for a playoff berth.
“Everything is in play,” Young said Thursday during a conference call. “Come down (to Montgomery) and if everything is going well, I'll come back up. If not, I'm not. I'll prepare myself the best I can to be ready in their eyes.”
Rays executive vice president of baseball Andrew Friedman said Young was not guaranteed a spot on the major league squad when rosters expand Sept. 1, but added, “We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think he will play for us a little in September.”
Young, 27, spent this season with the Phillies. He last played Aug. 8. He was designated for assignment the next day and cleared waivers. Young was released Aug. 14 after he refused to report to the Phillies' Triple-A team.
Now, he's headed back to the minor leagues for the chance to play with the Rays. Oh, the irony.
Young, the first pick in the 2003 draft, ripped the organization after being named the minor league player of the year in 2005 because he did not receive a September call-up.
He fumed the following March when he was sent to the minor leagues near the end of spring training. Young made his major league debut in August 2006, homering for his first big-league hit.
In November 2007, Young was traded to the Twins in exchange for pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett — two key figures in the Rays' run to the 2008 World Series.
While never the happiest of campers during his time in Tampa Bay, Young said he always wanted to return to the organization. He said he had interest from other teams but told his agent unless a team could top what the Rays were offering, he was headed to Tampa Bay.
“He came to me and said, looks like you're going back to Tampa, and I said that's perfectly fine with me,” he said.
As for the rocky time during his first stint with the organization, Young pointed out that he was 17 when drafted.
“I should have been in high school or college back then,” Young said.
His transgressions now include an arrest last season for a hate crime when he yelled anti-Semitic remarks outside a New York City hotel while a member of the Tigers. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to community service.
When asked about bringing back a player with such baggage, Friedman said, “We spent time together in recent years, and 27-year-old Delmon is very different than 22-year-old Delmon. He's grown and matured as a person since he was a Devil Ray back in '07. And he's really motivated to help the Rays down the stretch.”
Young could help the Rays as a designated hitter who has a career .303 average against left-handed pitchers.
“At this time of the year we're looking to bolster our depth, and Delmon does that,” Friedman said. “He's another right-handed hitting option that we'll potentially have available for us for the stretch run. It's way too early to predict all the roster changes we'll have between now and the end of the season, I just know we're better prepared today with Delmon as an option for us.”
Friedman also said Young's postseason experience is a plus. He was the MVP of the 2012 American League Championship Series.
Young hit .261 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs in 80 games this season with the Phillies. He said he went to Arizona after being DFA'd to work on his swing.
Young said his mechanics “were jacked up pretty good where it was really frustrating to go up there and have an at-bat. I got the swing mechanics back, go out there and try to provide some pop and some runs driven in.”
Friedman said Young will play for Montgomery because the Biscuits have one remaining road trip and it's short enough where the team will bus. That will provide the least-disruptive schedule for a player trying to regain his swing and swing his way back to the major leagues.
Young said he can accomplish that in as little as 10 at-bats or as many as 40.
“The point is to get him as many at-bats as we can as quickly as we can and give us a chance to assess,” Friedman said. “And if we feel like he can help us well then I'm sure we'd bring him up Sept. 1, unless he just hasn't gotten enough at-bats and maybe it takes a few more games and get some more at-bats and reassess. It's just too difficult to answer right now.”