Chris Young traveled to New York while on the San Diego Padres' disabled list last June and had a chance to see Citi Field.
"Looking up at the stadium, the energy in the park, I thought to myself this would be a lot of fun to play here," he said.
Young made it his home Thursday, finalizing a $1.1 million, one-year contract with the New York Mets that gives him the chance to earn an additional $3.4 million in bonuses if he makes 31 starts and pitches 180 innings.
A 6-foot-10 right-hander who went to Princeton, the 31-year-old has spent the last 1½ years trying to regain his health. He left a start against the Los Angeles Angels because of shoulder pain on June 14, 2009, and had surgery that Aug. 17 to repair partial tears in his labrum.
While he said last spring that his arm felt strong and he pitched six shutout innings of one-hit ball against Arizona in his first start April 6, he went on the disabled list six days later because of a strained shoulder. He didn't pitch in the majors again until Sept. 18.
"I think I pushed it a little too fast out of spring training last year," he said.
Young allowed one run or none in each of his September starts, pitching four innings in his first outing and five in each of the next two. He wound up 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA.
"I'm really excited about the way I feel right now," he said. "I feel healthy. I feel strong. I'm hopeful that it will hold up and I expect it to."
Young has never won more than 12 games in a season (12-7 for Texas in 2005) and he is 13-12 with a 4.13 ERA in 36 starts over the last three years.
With Johan Santana expected to be sidelined for at least the first few months of the season following shoulder surgery, Young figures to be in the Mets' rotation with Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese, R.A. Dickey and Chris Capuano. New York prospects Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee also are possibilities.
New Mets general manager Sandy Alderson was impressed with Young when they were together in San Diego. Young was an All-Star for the Padres in 2007, when he was 8-3 at the All-Star break before sliding to a 9-8 overall record.
"From my standpoint, our big-game pitcher, when he was available to us," Alderson said. "Unfortunately there were injuries along the way."
Young can make an additional $1,525,000 based on starts 10 through 31, and $1,875,000 based on innings from 70 to 180.
He would get $125,000 each for his 10th and 15th start, $150,000 for his 20th, $75,000 apiece for 21-25 and $125,000 each from 26-31. He also would receive $125,000 for pitching 70 innings, $150,000 for 80 and each additional 10 through 150, $175,000 apiece for 160 and 170, and $200,000 for 180.
NOTES: New York also agreed to a $1.1 million, one-year contract with 30-year-old OF Scott Hairston, who hit .210 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs for San Diego last year. Hairston has a .245 average, 68 homers and 198 RBIs in seven big league seasons. He can make an additional $400,000 in performance bonuses. ... To make room on the 40-man roster, the Mets designated RHP Tobi Stoner and OF Jason Pridie for assignment.