The tendinitis in Chad Tracy's left knee bothered him all of last season, and he kept it under wraps until the final weeks of the campaign. He slogged through it and nobody knew.
This season, it came back. Only it traveled to his other knee, and since the All-Star break, it's been so painful, he couldn't keep it a secret. Now, it might keep one of the club's most pure hitters out of the lineup indefinitely as the Diamondbacks head toward the stretch run, trying to maintain their hold on first place in the National League West.
Tracy, who has been on the disabled list since the Diamondbacks played the Marlins in Miami during the middle of August, hasn't been able to resume baseball activities and, despite a series of synthetic gel-like substance injections into the joint to ease pain, may not be ready any time soon.
He's undergone two MRIs and met with a specialist, Angels' team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum, to seek a second opinion.
"It's not great," manager Bob Melvin said. "He's still probably going to sit out a while. It's just not responding like we would have liked.
"It's just something in the knee joint and we're not 100 percent sure what it is. I guess there are a couple of bones that are pretty close together in there and they might be rubbing. How to alleviate that is kind of the question."
With Tracy sidelined -- he was hitting .261 through 226 at-bats -- the Diamondbacks have been leaning on rookie third baseman Mark Reynolds and veteran Jeff Cirillo, a recent waiver acquisition whose usefulness was questioned when he first arrived. Cirillo has been involved in a couple of key rallies as of late, and his defense has been dependable at third base, in light of Chad Tracy's right knee injury.
"You talk about depth, and you talk about insurance," Melvin said. "At the time, it looked like we had one too many. Now he's a guy who can give us some help right there -- a veteran guy who's had a nice little career here -- so he fits into the mix certainly right now, and we'd obviously be looking to do something different if he wasn't here, with the Tracy situation."
Melvin also indicated that switch-hitter Tony Clark could receive increased
playing time versus right-handers to give the team another left-handed threat
with Tracy's absence.
CUBS 6, DIAMONDBACKS 2: Rookie right-hander Micah Owings became the first pitcher to homer in back-to-back games since the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano did it Sept 17 and 23 last year, but he still lost to visiting Chicago on Friday at Chase Field as the offense failed to get much of anything going.
Cubs starter Sean Marshall gave up one run in six innings -- Owings' fourth home run of the season on a 386-foot drive to left in the third -- and allowed two of Arizona's four hits overall in improving to 7-6. Owings, who threw 30 pitches in the first inning when the Cubs went out to a 2-0 lead, homered twice in his last time out during a four-hit, six-RBI game at Atlanta on Aug. 18. He allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings.
"I feel like I gave the team a chance to win and that's all I can concentrate on doing," said Owings, who has one victory in his last 12 starts.
Arizona manager Bob Melvin was ejected in the seventh by home plate umpire Eric Cooper for complaining about balls and strikes. It was his second ejection of the season.
"I just got frustrated with the strike zone. It happens," Melvin said.
INSIDE EDGE: The Diamondbacks might be starting to fall back to earth after a remarkable second-half surge, but one thing they should guard against is making excuses. That's a sure sign of a team on the fringe of falling apart and lately, they've been pointing fingers for their own foibles, be it the umpiring, injuries, bad hops, you name it. Teams that win typically never look for explanations for failure. They keep their mouths shut and just play -- and win. Time will tell how the final stretch plays out for this young team.
--Manager Bob Melvin has altered his pitching rotation, giving ace RHP Brandon Webb an extra day off because of Thursday's scheduled off day, and starting the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner on Tuesday in San Diego. Melvin also is rescheduling the rotation to use LHP Doug Davis on Saturday, moving him up, and bumping RHP Yusmiero Petit from Saturday to Sunday.
--LF Eric Byrnes promised the Chandler National Little League team, which reached the semifinals in Williamsport, Pa., that he would throw a pool party for them at his home should they win it all. They didn't, but he still planned to host a get-together at his place.
"I've got swimming dogs, a putting green, batting cage, a basketball court," Byrnes said. "It'll be fun to have them over."
--Mel Stottlemyre Sr., the club's special assignment instructor and former Yankees pitching coach, has been spending several days with the Diamondbacks as of late.
"I'm here just to kind of observe and see where guys are," he said. --Through games of Aug. 24, the Diamondbacks were 46-27 when they hit a home run.
--Arizona's 24 wins from the bullpen through Aug. 23 were the most by any relief corps in the National League.
--Class AA Mobile RHP Max Scherzer has a 2.63 ERA and 32 strikeouts in five starts spanning 27 1/3 innings since struggling in July, when he posted a 6.04 ERA.
--Arizona is 25-14 since the All-Star break, the best record among National League clubs.
BY THE NUMBERS: .417 -- Second baseman Orlando Hudson's batting average during a 15-game stretch through Aug. 23 (25-for-60), which was the second-best average during that span by any National League hitter.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're so young, we just go out there and don't really care where we're playing, who we're playing, who's pitching. We just go out there and play hard." -- Diamondbacks rookie third baseman Mark Reynolds.
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