As much as Chad Tracy criticized himself last season, the Diamondbacks third baseman still finished with a productive third year in the big leagues. His home run total dropped from 27 to 20, and his batting average slipped a tad, from .308 to .281, but he posted career highs in hits (168), doubles (41), runs (91) and RBIs (80).
Hitting mostly in the No. 3 spot in 2006, Tracy didn't get much protection from a jumbled and unproductive cleanup spot. As a result, he didn't get a steady diet of fastballs upon which to feast.
But with the same scenario likely repeating itself in '07, as Arizona doesn't possess a proven slugger in the No. 4 hole, Tracy knows he is going to have to be ready for a variety of breaking pitches. That's something he's been isolating on during the offseason in preparation for spring training.
"I got a lot more breaking stuff last year, and I couldn't get the bat head out and expect fastballs in good hitter's counts," he said. "I'm going to have to be more aggressive early in the count this year, and I can't get down and let them have the opportunity to throw me a bunch of off-speed stuff.
"I've got to be ready to hit, and I've got to go after it."
Probably the best overall hitter in the organization, Tracy also will be fine-tuning his mental approach during and after games, refusing to carry a bad game with him for long stretches. He acknowledged he was often too hard on himself and let his mood affect him both at the plate and in the field.
Manager Bob Melvin may not have a set lineup even after spring training, deciding to mix and match as the season plays out, but Tracy likely will get many more at-bats in the No. 3 spot.
"I didn't have a lot of success there last year; I think I did better when I was bouncing around at 2 or 5 or 6," he said. "I don't know if it's because I felt less pressure or what, but I've almost always hit in the 3 hole, and I think it suits me.
"Moving around, that's not a problem with me. I don't think anybody else has a problem with that, either. ... Some guys might not always like it, but for me, it's not going to change a whole lot of what I'm trying to do up there."
--GM Josh Byrnes was still involved in trade discussions with Yankees GM Brian Cashman over the possibilities of re-acquiring LHP Randy Johnson, but the talks appeared to hit a snag regarding the players New York would want in return for the future Hall of Famer. The Yankees apparently wanted at least one of the Diamondbacks' top young pitching prospects to be part of the deal, and Arizona has resisted. There was also word that the Yankees weren't willing to pick up a chunk of Johnson's $16 million salary next season.
"If there is a deal that makes sense for both sides, he and Brian will make it happen," Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall said of Byrnes and Cashman. "Randy is a big part of our history and brings value to any team, but our baseball staff will not sacrifice a balanced roster if the asking price is too steep."
The Diamondbacks still owe Johnson about $40 million in deferred salary, and they were trying to restructure some of that pay into their possible trade with the Yankees.
--3B Chad Tracy ended up with 25 errors at third last season, tying the Reds' Edwin Encarnacion for the most in the National League at that position. But Tracy was set to begin extra fielding practice in early January in Phoenix, working with former Triple-A Tucson manager Chip Hale, now the Diamondbacks' new third base coach.
"That's an area of my game I know I can improve," Tracy said.
--LHP Doug Davis has pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past three seasons, and the Diamondbacks are banking he will do it again, along with fellow starters Brandon Webb and Livan Hernandez.
"Knock on wood," Davis said. "I haven't had the misfortune of injury to my arm, so it's enabled me to take the ball every five days and rack up those innings. I think between the three of us, we know how to get out of our own jams. I've seen how Bob Melvin manages. He gives his pitchers the benefit of the doubt, and I think that's going to benefit all three of us."
--If the Diamondbacks don't acquire another starting pitcher, then the final two spots in the rotation will be decided during spring training among a group of eight candidates: RHP Dustin Nippert, RHP Micah Owings, RHP Enrique Gonzalez, RHP Edgar Gonzalez, LHP Dana Eveland, LHP Evan MacLane, RHP Ross Ohlendorf and RH reliever Juan Cruz.
BY THE NUMBERS: 160 -- Home runs hit by Arizona in 2006, which ranked 13th in the National League. Six were pinch homers, three were leadoff shots, two were grand slams and two were walk-offs. OF Eric Byrnes led the club with 26.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I like our lineup. We don't have a really huge home run hitter in there, but that's really not that big a deal. We're going to rely on a lot of us having good at-bats, working the pitcher deep into his pitch count and spraying the ball around the field. We've got good contact hitters, guys who don't strike out a lot, and I think we're capable of winning a lot of ballgames." -- 3B Chad Tracy on the 2007 Diamondbacks.
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