The Tigers' newfound search for an offensive addition led them not only within their own division, but in the same ballpark, once the trade for Young was finalized Monday. Detroit acquired the corner outfielder for Minnesota for Minor League left-hander Cole Nelson and a player to be named later. Detroit made room for Young on its roster by optioning second baseman Will Rhymes to Triple-A Toledo.
The move adds a bat for a Tigers offense that struggled at times on their just-completed road trip. Considering that manager Jim Leyland placed Young in the third spot in the lineup, immediately in front of Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers see him as a potential key in adding some life to the batting order.
"We like Delmon's bat," Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Monday afternoon. "He's been swinging a lot better the second half of the year, had some injury factors early in the year. As you know, he drove in 112 runs last year. He's a guy that we fear[ed] a great deal, from an offensive perspective. We think that he can give us a little lift here from an offensive part of the game as we go forward the rest of the season and help us win this thing."
Young homered in his first at-bat as a Tiger, sending a Francisco Liriano over the fence in left-center field and into the Twins bullpen for a first-inning solo shot. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first Major League player to homer in his first at-bat for his new team, facing his old team, since Dave Martinez in one of his four stops in 2000.
Even before that, he received a loud ovation from fans upon his pregame introduction.
"You can't ask for anything more," Young said. "You're in a pennant race, and the fans want you to play well because they obviously want to win, and they'd like to get the playoffs again. So it's good to have the fans behind you."
Young will be part of the Tigers' regular outfield, manager Leyland said. He played left field in place of Brennan Boesch, but will be playing alongside Boesch most days from here on out. Leyland indicated Young will remain in the third spot once Boesch returns Tuesday, with Boesch batting second.
Young's playing time will come mainly at the expense of Magglio Ordonez, whose August struggles left him 6-for-39 with four RBIs while still looking for extra-base power.
Young was a critical piece of the Twins' run to the AL Central title last year, batting .298 with 46 doubles, 21 home runs and a team-high 112 RBIs last year to earn league MVP consideration. Between injuries and inconsistencies, he has struggled to duplicate that form this year, though both Young and the Tigers believe he's closer to it now than he was earlier.
Young entered Monday batting .266 with 16 doubles, four home runs and 32 RBIs over 84 games. He has been better since the All-Star break, batting .286 with eight doubles, two home runs and 12 RBIs in 29 games.
"I came back from the ankle injury [in early May] and I've been feeling good," Young said. "Just being healthy is a key thing, to get on the baseball field and feel good. You guys have been around guys who have been hurt over here. When you're not feeling well, you try to go grind it out, and it can take a toll on your total production. I've been feeling good since the All-Star break, getting treatment and everything. Hopefully I can come out here and play well."
The Tigers strongly believe he can.
"He had some injuries early, was not really swinging the bat quite as well early on," Dombrowski said. "He hit a couple home runs in Anaheim [on Aug. 3]. Our feelings are that he's swinging the bat better, and he's the type of guy that really can help us in the middle of the lineup. So I do think coming over here in the middle of a pennant race, hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera tonight, has got to pick you up a little bit."
So, too, can the chance to play with some familiar faces after a trade. Young's older brother, Dmitri, played with Detroit from 2002-06, and the Tigers had interest in drafting the younger Young in 2003 before he went to Tampa Bay with the first overall pick -- a selection the Tigers might have had that year if not for a rainout against the Twins the previous September. He was in the home clubhouse at Comerica Park in 2005 as part of the All-Star Futures Game.
More directly, Young and Boesch have been friends since childhood, and have worked out together the past few offseasons. Boesch was the first person Young looked for in the Tigers clubhouse, which hadn't heard about the trade.
"Everyone was looking confused when I walked in the clubhouse," Young said. "I don't think anyone knew what happened. Me and Boesch, we go back. Since we were little kids, we trained together in the offseason, we hang out a lot. It's always good when you go to a place where you have some friends."
Young is eligible for arbitration this winter and could file for free agency after next season. While his role is well-defined for the stretch run, what happens with Ordonez remains to be seen. He had been batting third almost every day since coming back from a DL stint in June. Now his days in the lineup are undetermined.
Leyland said he talked with Ordonez on the phone once the trade was finalized.
"We're not going to forget about Magglio," Leyland said. "I'm going to pick my spots [to play him]. It won't be the steady playing time he's had over his career, obviously, which was explained to him. That was addressed, so that's pretty much where that stands."
Nelson was a 10th-round selection in last year's First-Year Player Draft, and went 5-11 with a 4.87 ERA for Class A Lakeland. The 6-foot-7 southpaw out of Auburn struck out 87 batters over 105 1/3 innings, but also walked 50. He'll go to the Twins' affiliate in the Florida State League in Fort Myers.
It's the first trade between the two division foes since 2001, when Detroit sent then-former closer Todd Jones to Minnesota around the trade deadline for left-hander Mark Redman.