Tracy earns spot on Cubs
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The last bench spot on the Chicago Cubs came down to two veteran newcomers.
Chad Tracy beat out Kevin Millar in a move that didn't seem clear cut coming down the stretch. Tracy's inclusion on the 25-man roster was announced Tuesday afternoon by general manager Jim Hendry before the Cubs' game against the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs also announced that rookie reliever James Russell made the club.
Neither Tracy or Millar, backup infielders signed to add experience to the Cubs' bench, had been in this situation before. Millar had never been released and Tracy hadn't had to fight for a job since 2004, three years after he was drafted. Signed in the offseason, Tracy will back up Aramis Ramirez at third and spell Derrek Lee at first, while giving the Cubs a valuable left-handed bat off the bench.
"Everybody had merit, everybody had different contributions," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We talked about it long and hard, and decided to keep Tracy."
He has batted .243 with six RBIs this spring. He was the Arizona Diamondbacks' starting third baseman from 2004-06 with his best season coming in 2005 when he batted .308 with 27 home runs and 72 RBIs.
"The pressure's off a little bit now," Tracy said. "So hopefully I can settle down and settle in, and get comfortable around here and do some good things.
"It was a little different. I wasn't used to these emotions, and the kind of stress I had this spring."
Millar batted .242 with a home run and three RBIs in 33 at-bats this spring. Primarily a first baseman, Millar was also working out at third base and left field. His outgoing personality made him a clubhouse favorite.
Hendry met with Millar for 30 minutes on Tuesday and said he agonized over the decision.
"[Millar] brings intangibles to the table, but so do the rest of them," Hendry said. "He knew coming into camp that he was kind of a long shot. Early on, no one was really taking charge. Once [Tyler] Colvin made it, in the end, a left-handed hitter and a guy who can play third [was valuable]."
Russell, the son of former major leaguer Jeff Russell, was a 14th-round draft pick in 2007. This will be his major league debut.
"It was fun telling Russell," Piniella said.
Earlier in the day, Millar told several reporters he was confident that he would make the team, but at the same time, if he were released, he would think about retiring.
"Kevin was great," Hendry said of their conversation. "He's a real professional. He's a guy you 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 and good at a lot of roles."
Hoffpauir, a left-handed hitter who batted .239 with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs in 105 games last season with the Cubs, hit .239 with seven RBIs this spring.
ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine contributed to this report.