As much as Chad Tracy criticized himself last season, the
Diamondbacks third baseman still finished with a productive third year in the
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
"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
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,
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
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