TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Chad Tracy took a big step in his rehabilitation Sunday.
Make that several big steps.
Tracy, recovering from microfracture surgery on his right knee, went through agility drills on a side field at Tucson Electric Park. The workout was viewed as a milestone in Tracy's long road back.
``Today was the day that I feel like you get over the hump and you start back on the good side,'' Tracy said. ``I know now that I'll be ramping up the intensity every time out.''
Tracy hopes to speed the process with a special treadmill - expected to arrive on Tuesday - that will allow him to exert himself without putting full weight on the knee.
Tracy still hasn't run, and the club doesn't know when he'll be able to play in a spring training game. But manager Bob Melvin was encouraged by Tracy's workout.
``It's a step where he's actually done something with his legs,'' Melvin said. ``Now at least the clock's started on him to where each and every day you do a little bit more. Hopefully we're going in the right direction.''
Tracy wasn't the only injured Diamondback to make strides on Sunday. Left-hander Randy Johnson, returning from back surgery, threw 26 pitches off a mound and could be ready to face hitters in his next outing, tentatively scheduled for Thursday.
``We're going kind of outing to outing with it so we don't get too far ahead of ourselves,'' Melvin said. ``We've had no setbacks.''
The Diamondbacks don't have a timetable for the 44-year-old Johnson's first regular-season start. The same is true for Tracy, who hopes he'll be ready when the Diamondbacks open the season at Cincinnati on March 31.
``The goal is opening day,'' Tracy said. ``I also realize that this injury is not something you can rush, and it can easily be set back.
``For me, the bottom line is no setbacks,'' he added. ``You try to get out there sooner and you end up coming back a lot later.''
If Tracy is delayed, the Diamondbacks have insurance in outfielder Trot Nixon, who is in camp on a minor league contract. Nixon, who has been working out at first base, could provide a left-handed bat off the bench.
Even when Tracy returns, his role is uncertain. Third baseman Mark Reynolds made a big splash after being promoted from Double-A last May, and Conor Jackson is the starter at first base, Tracy's other position.
Melvin has tried to avoid talking about what he'll do when Tracy returns.
``I don't want to go there yet,'' Melvin said. ``We have three quality guys that we feel like are all everyday players.''
The 27-year-old Tracy is a .288 career hitter with 62 home runs and 240 RBIs in four seasons, all with the Diamondbacks. In 2006, Arizona gave him a $13.25 million, three-year contract extension through 2009 that includes a team option for the following season.
Tracy said Melvin has assured him ``you're still going to be a huge part of this team.''
Tracy seems more concerned about completing his lengthy, sometimes painful rehabilitation than speculating about where he'll fit in the lineup.
``In this game, there's 1,500 players coming in to take your job every single year,'' Tracy said. ``You've got to know that there's going to be good players, and when people get hurt, there's going to be players that come up and they do well and they stay.
``I hate to say it, but there are 30 teams out there,'' Tracy said. ``If I don't fit here when I am healthy, then I think that I'll fit somewhere. I would love to be here for the rest of my life, but the reality is, that's the way the business works.''
Tracy had to adjust to a different role - cheerleader - with the Diamondbacks after he underwent surgery last Sept. 20. It was a bittersweet time for Tracy, who showed up at the ballpark every day to support his teammates as they clinched the NL West title and then advanced to the NL championship series.
``That's the ultimate goal, and when it happens, you're hurt,'' Tracy said. ``So you start feeling sorry for yourself. Why me? Why does it have to happen right now?
``I've played on plenty of bad teams and never been hurt, and then when it's time to go do the real thing, the real deal in the playoffs, I have to sit there and watch,'' Tracy said. ``You can fall into letting your mind run and getting down on yourself, but it's not going to help.''
The young Diamondbacks are favored by many to reach the playoffs again. Tracy expects to play a big role, and Sunday's workout gave him a reason for optimism.
``No pain,'' Tracy said. ``I haven't pushed it really hard, but I feel good.''

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