|With Tracy's return in doubt, Nixon looks to make Diamondbacks|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 23 February 2008 12:34|
Thanks to Chad Tracy's right knee, he may have found one with Arizona, at least for now.
After agreeing to a minor league contract, Nixon reported on Saturday to the Diamondbacks, who see him as a possible insurance policy if Tracy has not recovered from microfracture surgery by opening day. The team has not set a timetable for Tracy's return, but it appears unlikely that he'll be ready for the March 31 opener at Cincinnati.
That opened the door for Nixon, an outfielder who could provide a left-handed bat off the bench and a backup for first baseman Conor Jackson. The Diamondbacks already have four outfielders, so Nixon isn't expected to see much playing time there.
``Trot gives us a lot of protection and a left-handed hitter if that's what we're losing,'' Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes said.
Asked if this was his best opportunity to play, Nixon said, ``I don't know about best - it was the only opportunity I had.''
Nixon, who turns 34 on April 11, is a .275 career hitter in 11 major league seasons, the first 10 with Boston. He has 136 home runs and 554 RBIs in 1,081 games.
Nixon hit .251 with three homers and 31 RBIs in 99 games with Cleveland last year.
Nixon has been a reliable postseason hitter, with a .283 playoff average. He went 5-for-11 with a double, a homer and three RBIs in two postseason series with the Indians last year. He won a World Series with Boston in 2004.
Nixon has never played first base in the majors, but the Diamondbacks plan to give him plenty of work there in the next few weeks. He took groundballs at first base as part of a workout for club officials last week.
``I think that's the benefit of spring training,'' Byrnes said. ``As long as it may seem sometimes, it's also a time that a guy like him can go out there and get some innings at first base. We'll see how it looks.''
Nixon said he's been practicing at first base with the UNC-Wilmington baseball team near his offseason home.
``I'm pretty comfortable over there,'' Nixon said Saturday morning as he dressed for his first practice with the Diamondbacks. ``As far as taking groundballs and making throws to second and all that stuff, that's not easy all the time, but I think the biggest difference is getting out there in game situations.''
Nixon underwent back surgery after the 2006 season but said he's feeling good.
``Even though a lot of my playing time diminished last year, I stayed off the DL the whole year,'' Nixon said. ``That was kind of a bonus for me.''
Nixon spent the winter trying to latch on with a team but found no takers. He had begun to wonder whether his career might be ending.
``It wasn't looking like anything,'' Nixon said. ``I felt like I was probably going to be at home.
``It was kind of late. I had my battles with it. I didn't understand it.''
Nixon understands his role with the defending NL West champions. If Tracy makes a speedy recovery, Nixon might not be around for very long.
But rosters are often in flux, and that could mean an opportunity for Nixon. In Game 1 of last year's NL championship series, the Diamondbacks started three players - second baseman Augie Ojeda, third baseman Mark Reynolds and right fielder Justin Upton - who weren't with the team on opening day.
``As far as making the team, I've still got to work and try to make the ballclub,'' Nixon said. ``The biggest thing for me is I've got a job.''