TEMPE, Ariz. -- Eric Young Jr. is making the idea of starting him as a change-of-pace to the Rockies' lineup look better and better each time manager Walt Weiss tests him in Cactus League play.
Saturday against the Angels, Young easily beat out an infield bouncer to short in his first at-bat, had a solid single to left his second time up and dropped a bunt single in his third at-bat to lift his spring batting average to .474 in seven games.
Young, 27, earned the long look this year by hitting .316 last year, his first full season in the Majors. Part of that success came off the bench, but he was also hot during an extended trial in the starting lineup, before suffering an oblique injury in August that cost him the rest of the year.
"That run I had last year pretty much gave me the self-confidence to believe pretty much what everyone was trying to tell me -- just go play my game, and not worry about impressing everybody else," Young said. "That's putting the ball on the ground, using my legs, trying to hit the ball on the ground and just causing havoc by messing around with the defense."
Young started in center as the Rockies rested Dexter Fowler, but more often Young will start in right and Fowler will play center when Weiss goes to his speed lineup. The Rockies are more likely to use the Young-Fowler combo during road games, when manufacturing runs is at a greater premium than at power hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Like Young, Fowler has speed, but on the basepath, Fowler is less likely to initiate action through steals. Fowler hit a career-high 13 homers last year, and his swing is better suited to hitting into the gaps than placing the ball on the ground and beating it out, the way Young does.
"It gives Walt a lot of options to maybe use me more frequently, maybe use Dex down in the two hole, like we used to do in the Minor Leagues," Young said. "If I get on base, and he hits the ball in the gap, the pitcher's got to worry about either me stealing a base or serving him one up. And if we're both on base and CarGo (Carlos Gonzalez) or Tulo (Troy Tulowitzki) hit, somebody's definitely scoring."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.