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Cubs decide to go with Tracy over Millar
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Chad Tracy (9) is congratulated after his a 2-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning against the Giants on Tuesday.

 

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Published: 3/30/2010 1:54 PM | Updated: 3/30/2010 9:38 PM

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - How's this for a juxtaposition?

Early Tuesday morning, Kevin Millar was at his locker asking the writers how they thought the Cubs' final roster cuts would shake out.

Later in the day, Chad Tracy joked with those same writers in the dugout that this was the first time all spring they wanted to talk with him.

That's because Tracy made the opening-day roster - as it turns out, at the expense of Millar - as the Cubs got down to the 25 men they'll take to Atlanta.

The left-handed hitting Tracy won the final bench spot as the Cubs set their team with six days to go before Opening Day.

"You never know what to think," said the 29-year-old Tracy, who signed as a nonroster man after playing parts of six years with the Arizona Diamondbacks. "You go out there and play. Your nerves are a little high. You're a little on edge. The pressure's off a little bit now.

"Hopefully, I can settle down and settle in and get comfortable and hopefully do some good things."

Tracy is a lifetime .302 hitter as a pinch hitter. The Cubs hope he also can back up Derrek Lee at first base and Aramis Ramirez at third. In Tuesday's 5-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants, he replaced Lee and hit a 2-run homer in the eighth inning to break a 3-3 tie.

Manager Lou Piniella talked of the seemingly better depth the Cubs have this year over last, when they had no viable backup to Ramirez, who missed two months of the season with a dislocated shoulder. This year the Cubs have both Tracy and Jeff Baker who can play third.

"We're deeper, obviously," Piniella said. "We didn't have Baker here last year. We didn't have Tracy. Outside of (catcher Koyie) Hill, this is a brand new bench. Outside of (closer Carlos) Marmol, it's a brand new bullpen."

Millar, 38, has a long-standing relationship with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. He's also known for his strong clubhouse presence. In the end, the Cubs went with Tracy's versatility.

"Kevin was great," Hendry said. "He's a pro. I think he knew that I agonized over it. We ended up having about a half-an-hour conversation. Very professional. He's a guy that you'd always want in your organization. I'm not here to say he's done, but he knows down the road he's a potential employee here. He'd be a great coach. He'd be good at a lot of things.

"He's a tremendous human being who helped a lot of guys in the time he was here even though he's not getting on the plane Saturday."

The rest of the bench had been set, with rookie Tyler Colvin officially winning a backup outfield job Monday. He will join outfielder Xavier Nady, Tracy, Baker and Hill as the backups.

The Cubs got good starting pitching this spring. They'll break with three rookies in the bullpen, and it's unlikely Hendry will pull off a last-minute trade for a veteran reliever.

"I think the right guys made the club," Hendry said. "I think we're all pleased with how we pitched down here. It's not easy to come down here and pitch well in Arizona. Let's hope it continues."

The difference a year makes

The Cubs turned over their bench almost completely from 2009 to 2010. Here is how the two opening-day bench shapes up:

2009

Koyie Hill, C

Micah Hoffpauir, 1B-OF

Aaron Miles, IF

Joey Gathright, OF

Reed Johnson, OF

2010

Hill, C

Chad Tracy, 1B-3B

Jeff Baker, IF

Tyler Colvin, OF

Xavier Nady, OF