Tracy focusing on footwork

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Chad Tracy got off to a good start in his first big league Spring Training on Thursday, as he went 1-for-1 with a triple and a walk. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 24-year-old to chat about his experiences and his defensive progression.

Although 24-year-old prospect Chad Tracy wasn't added to the Texas Rangers' 40-man roster this past offseason, he received a non-roster invitation to big league Spring Training.

Tracy earned the spot in Major League camp with his dominant second half at Double-A Frisco last season, where he batted .322 with 19 doubles, 17 home runs, and 61 RBI in just 63 contests. For the season, he finished with 32 two-baggers, 26 round-trippers, and 107 runs batted in.

The Pepperdine product is a strong hitter with above-average raw power to all fields. In his first Spring Training game on Thursday afternoon, Tracy took a pitch on the outer half into the right-center field gap for a triple. He also added a walk in his other plate appearance.

The biggest challenge over Tracy's professional career as been finding a position. After being drafted as a catcher in 2006, Tracy has split his time between first base and left field.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with Tracy on Friday morning for a chat about his progress in the field, where he's playing, and his experiences in big league camp.

Jason Cole: First off, just tell me about your experiences thus far in your first big league camp.

Chad Tracy: I'm having a great time, obviously. To get around some of these people that have a lot to offer–I can't even tell you how much I've learned as far as defense is concerned. Like infield work, outfield work–the early work that I've been doing. That was my big thing. I have got to make some strides there, and I feel like in just a couple weeks time, I've made some big strides there. I'm just being like a sponge and taking in whatever I can.

Cole: Being the son of a Major League manager, I'm sure you grew up around the game. You've been around big league camp before, and you've been able to see how it works.

Tracy: Yeah, there weren't a whole lot of surprises for me. There probably wasn't for a lot of guys, but I had been around it for a long time. When I was a little kid, I watched what was going on. I've been able to kind of take things in stride as they tell me what to do. I'm just taking it and running with it. Eventually, you do it more and more, and you get it. That's what I'm hoping will happen.

Cole: You played left field in Thursday's Spring Training game, and you played more first base than left last season. How much have you been working out between left and first?

Tracy: I've been doing a lot at first base in the mornings. We typically do our early work early in the morning, and that's time to go out there one-on-one and just work on your mechanics and your fundamentals on defense. I've been doing a lot of that. You've got to be ready for that. There are a lot of first basemen in camp, and a lot of them played with me last year–young guys that haven't even cracked the big leagues yet. You've got Smoak and Mitch and myself.

So I've been doing that, and I've also been going out whenever I get time to shag. The last few days, I've been doing my early work in left field because most of the games so far, I've played left field. So I have to be ready for both of them. That's just my gig. I have to be ready for left, and I have to be ready to play first. Anytime I get some time to work with Gary Pettis, Dave Anderson or Ron Washington, I grab it and try to get better at either one.

Cole: Did you play any left field at all in Frisco last year after Justin Smoak was promoted?

Tracy: No, not at all.

Cole: After so much time away from the outfield, how difficult is it to do things like reading fly balls when you first get back out there?

Tracy: A little. It's more the angles for me going back on the ball. There's a technique to it. A lot of people think you just run back and catch it, but no, you're trying to look over your shoulder while you're running to catch a ball. That's not as easy as it looks. So I think the balls that are hit right at you–that's pretty second nature. You just do it. But I think the footwork is the stuff where, after eight months, that's the stuff that will leave you. You've got to get back into that with the proper steps and the proper footwork.

Cole: You said you've been taking a lot of ground balls at first base. Is there one area defensively at first you feel you've progressed in more than anywhere else?

Tracy: My footwork and my throwing to second base. When you think about it, most of the throws are to second–98 percent of the throws are to second base. And you don't even get too many of those over the course of the season. But when you do, you want to be able to make that.

My footwork was a little sloppy, being as I'd never done first base before. So in only two weeks, I've been working on backhand and forehand–whatever it is to get my feet lined up to second base. I think I've made huge strides in that regard. It is a lot better, a lot crisper, and a lot more accurate. That is what I'm going for–being more precise. That is the area we have really been attacking.

Cole: You got into your first official Spring Training game yesterday, and you got two at-bats, going 1-for-1 with a triple and a walk. What were your thoughts on your first game?

Tracy: It was nice. You feel a little more comfortable now that you're part of big league camp. You kind of feel like you belong here now, so it's a little less nerve wracking. I had a good time. I just went out there and tried to feel like, ‘Hey, I'm part of this.' And act like you're part of this, and do like I always do. I wanted to go out there and take a couple good at-bats, so it felt good.

Cole: I remember last year, you attributed your big second half to being more selective at the plate. It seemed like you were doing that yesterday as well, working counts and driving a pitch you can hit. Is that something you were really focusing on yesterday?

Tracy: That was my whole thought process yesterday during the game. It's funny you mention that. That was my thought process in Spring Training. I've always notoriously had a good spring, and I think a lot of that is attributed to the fact that the pitchers are just getting into it. If they get behind in the count, they'll just throw you a fastball. And I have to do a better job of–when the season starts, it's different. They start the breaking stuff off in hitter's counts.

So you have to pay a lot of attention to being selective and getting a good pitch to hit. At least, that's how I'm preparing this year. I'm trying to go in there and be more focused on getting a good pitch to hit no matter what the count is. That's what I was thinking about yesterday–get a good pitch to hit, get a ball out over the plate, and make sure it's a strike.

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