Nationals manager Davey Johnson hasn’t been shy about making it known that he’s looking for some additional left-handed pop off the bench this season.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnson started renting billboard space around Viera or posting “Help Wanted” signs throughout the Nats’ clubhouse.
Enter Chad Tracy, a 31-year-old corner infielder who spent last season playing in Japan.
Tracy slugged 27 homers with the Diamondbacks in 2005, and then hit 20 more the next season. Since then, however, his at-bats and power numbers have declined. Tracy hit just .247 with one home run and 15 RBIs in 146 at-bats in 2010, and then went abroad last year to play for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
Still, Tracy possesses a power stroke which intrigues Johnson.
“As I told him first day of camp, ‘I’m going to give you a good look, and you’re going to have a chance to make this ballclub,’ ” Johnson said. “What I’m looking for here (is) more offense. I’m not looking for defenders coming off the bench, I’m looking for more offense coming off the bench. So you can draw your own conclusions.”
Johnson isn’t lying when he says he plans on giving Tracy a shot to win a job. Tracy has 15 at-bats in Grapefruit League competition so far this spring, tied for the third-most of any player on the Nats’ roster. He’s hitting just .200 (3-for-15), but is tied for the team lead in RBIs this spring with four.
Tracy is aware there’s a job out there to be won, which is a large part of the reason why he decided to sign a minor league contract with the Nats heading into spring training.
“I don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t feel like there wasn’t an opportunity,” Tracy said. “I do what I do, and I’m not going to change it. I spray the ball all over the field, and I juice a ball pull-side here and there. That’s kind of my game, and it’s always been my game. Hopefully, I can help the team.”
How much emphasis is Johnson putting on his bench players being able to handle the bat? So much so that the positions that his utility players play seem to not be all that important in the grand scheme of things.
One might think that Tracy’s chances of making the Nats’ opening day roster would be lessened by the fact that Mark DeRosa (who will earn one of Johnson’s utility jobs) is also a corner infielder. But with DeRosa hitting from the right side, Johnson says he’d be open to having another corner infielder on the roster, if he provides a left-handed presence.
“As long as they can hit, I don’t care what they do,” Johnson said. “I can find a way to fit them in.”