Young, a 36-year-old infielder who has started at least 134 games at second base, shortstop and third base in different seasons during his career, is in his second month of adjusting back to full-time work on the position affectionately called the hot corner.
Young played just 25 games at third base in 2012, when he was used primarily as a designated hitter with the Texas Rangers. But after close to 2 weeks of games, he's beginning to get comfortable in his new place on the diamond.
"It's going great," said Young, who was given a day off when the Phils played the Dominican Republic in exhibition play on Tuesday. "I knew I'd be getting a lot of reps, but the one thing we've been doing that's been great is making them as close to game-situation reps as you possibly can. Not just standard fungoes. In my early work, Ryno is taking flips and he's just hammering them at me. I'm getting balls with topspin, balls to my left, to my right."
If practice makes perfect, Young should be an adequate replacement at third base for Placido Polanco, a three-time Gold Glove winner who signed with the Marlins as a free agent in December. If Young can translate the tools that made him a Gold Glove shortstop in 2008, he could continue the lineage of sure-handed Phillies third basemen that began in 2008 with Pedro Feliz and continued with Polanco in 2010.
But Young doesn't have the pedigree at third base, which led to some questions from baseball people when the Phillies acquired him in December.
Young moved to third base for the first time in 2009 and his range was an issue. In 2010, his second full season at third and the last year he played it full time, Young had better range but made 19 errors in 155 games.
"I understand the questions: my age and I haven't been a full-time third baseman in 2 years," Young said. "Those are fair questions and I don't have a problem with them. But at the same time, I know what I'm capable of."
When the Phils committed to Young, they felt that having him focus solely on third would help him become a better fielder. In his last two seasons, Young started 14 or more games at first, third and second in Texas.
Young is expected to be the Phillies everyday third baseman in 2013, the last year of his contract. The fact that infield wiz Freddy Galvis hasn't taken the field at third this spring is a sign of the team's faith in Young.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., for one, has had faith in Young since pursuing him 3 months ago.
"His demeanor, the way he goes about his business, the fact is he has played in the middle infield and he has been a plus defender in the past," Amaro said, rattling off the reasons he's confident in Young's defense at third. "You may lose some mobility and some quickness [as you get older], but I don't think you lose your ability to catch the baseball."
Amaro likened Young's transition to the one a then-34-year-old Polanco made from second to third when he rejoined the Phillies 3 years ago.
"If you can field, you can field," Amaro said. "Especially if they've done it there before."
Sandberg and Mike Schmidt, two Hall of Famers with 19 Gold Gloves between them, share Amaro's faith in Young.
"He hasn't had a problem at all," said Schmidt, who is in camp as a special instructor. "He's got middle infielder instincts. He'll be fine."
"Being a former All-Star shortstop, I can see in him those types of tools at third base: the hands, very good range, a good quick first step in both directions," Sandberg said. "Up to this point he's been able to knock down three or four balls that I can remember that would have been doubles, keeping them in the infield and keeping the doubleplay in order. So he's showed his range in making plays to his left. He's really getting after it. He's really serious about it and I've seen nothing but good results."
Sandberg went on to describe Young's preparation at third as if he was talking about Chase Utley at second: He's smart, positions himself well and is in tune with the game, knowing where and how far he can move off the bag depending on the hitter and the game situation. When asked about the gradual decline of players as they age, Sandberg almost winced at categorizing Young in that manner.
"All I have to do is look at Michael Young and see his quickness, his reaction and his range," Sandberg said. "It starts there. He has a plus arm at third base and for me he has an accurate arm."
In the 3 weeks since he has been in camp, Young has been getting the reps. He has been working on his footwork.
And with a diligent work ethic, he's becoming comfortable and confident, too.
"Third is unique," Young said. "The one thing I'm getting now is there is certain feel for third you can only get with a lot of reps, just because it's so unlike short and second. At short and second everything is right in front of you and you have so much time to react, get your feet in a natural position and to get ready for the throw. So when the ball is hit, you're already thinking, 'Oh OK, this is how I'm going to catch it and this is where my feet are going to go when I throw.
"At third, in a lot of ways, you're like a hockey goalie sometimes. And it took me a while to get that feel. But I'm getting that feel now. I always felt if I got a real consistent setup, and make my first step as explosive as I possibly can, than I'm going to make a ton of plays. And that's where I feel I'm getting right now."
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21