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Chris Young named AL Comeback Player of the Year

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Chris Young gets the unofficial honor along with Casey McGeehe of the Miami Marlins in the NL.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It's not the real deal, but Chris Young is one step closer to the official MLB Comeback Player of the Year award after being named for the same honor by Sporting News this morning.

Young shares the award with the Miami Marlins' Casey McGeehe, and the two remain the most likely candidates for the actual, MLB-recognized Comeback Player of the Year award voted on by beat reporters at the end of the season. The Sporting News award has been given each season since 1965, and it was essentially the official award until the MLB started their own version in 2005. Since then, the results have been nearly identical with only two exceptions: Fernando Tatis in 2008, and Vladmir Guerrero in 2010.

It's a well-deserved nod for Young, who spent all of 2013 in the minors after struggling with thoracic outlet syndrome over his ten-year career in the major leagues. After corrective surgery, he saved the Mariners season from Randy Wolf's little episode and held down the number three spot in a rotation that seemed to shuffle injuries like playing cards until late July. He went 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA this season, pleasing all the traditional folks, but as we all know, he is a lot more exciting and complicated than that. The extreme fly-ball pitcher had a 5.19 xFIP and yet somehow ran out a .238 BABIP on the season, tying him for best in the bigs with Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds. Also he was nine feet tall and looked like Mike Zunino's Dad. What's not to love?

Young is currently a free agent, and though he has made his love for Seattle known, the Mariners are by no means guaranteed to lock him back up for a rotation spot next season. He struggled to finish the year as strong as he started, giving up 19 runs over his final five starts thanks to fatigue on a 35-year old frame pitching more innings than it had seen in years. But we would be remiss to ignore the fact that Chris Young was one of the most important figures in the clubhouse last season, mentoring young guys and stabilizing a rocky pitching staff that could have sunk the season without his support. That we were cheering Felix into the playoffs on the last day was exciting--but none of it would have happened without the work done by Chris Young.

If Young wins the official award this fall, he will be the first Mariner recognized with the official honor. During the dark eighties, the Sporting News recognized a number of Mariners with the award for a franchise that was sweeping up leftover fish with a fraying net: Willie Horton (1979), Richie Zisk (1981), and Gorman Thomas (1985) all achieved the honor, as well as Gil Meche in 2003 in similar post-surgery conditions to Young. The official award is named after the World Series, and unless Jeter Fever has one last burst of energy, it seems like it's Young's to lose.

Update: Chris Young has won the official MLB award.