Last season, Chad Tracy became a vital weapon off the Nationals’ bench, perhaps the best pinch hitter in the majors. The Nationals rewarded him with a one-year, $1 million contract extension before the season ended. In his second season in Washington, Tracy found more frustration than success as diminished playing time, he said, ate away at his production.
Tracy, 33, has no plan to call it a career after he hit .184/.221/.288 over 131 plate appearances. If anything, the season motivated him to seek another job next year.
“I definitely want to play,” Tracy said. “I feel like I still have a whole lot left. I just need the right situation, the right opportunity. It’s kind of one those things, I don’t want to go out like this. I still feel when I get at-bats in the right situations that I produce. I’d love to come back here. We’ll see what happens with that.”
Manager Davey Johnson has often mentioned the Nationals’ bench as a reason between the difference in the Nationals’ success last year and their underachievement this season. Tracy bristled at the implication that he was included in that, pointing to infrequent playing time as the reason for his inability to duplicate last year’s success.
“I’ve had three starts in three starts in three months,” Tracy said. “It’s just tough to put up numbers. You can blame things on the bench. But to blame guys with 100 at-bats, that’s pretty tough to blame the season on the bench.”
Last year, Tracy hit .269/.333/.441 over 105 plate appearances even though he missed 55 days on the disabled list. This year, Tracy’s playing time has waned, especially in the second half.
“To have nine plate appearances in September and 25 at-bats since Aug. 1, you can’t do anything with that,” Tracy said. “What are supposed to do? You’re set up for failure.”
For the first time in his career, Tracy said, he will head into the offseason without any health issues, which he said will allow him to focus on improving his physical condition and his hitting. He believes he can recapture his form from last year and help a team in 2014.
“I still like the quality of my at-bats,” Tracy said. “I didn’t get a whole lot of balls to fall for hits. I started off my first 50 at-bats really, really bad. After the all-star break, I felt like I had great at-bats. I got a few more hits, pretty timely hits. I had three big home runs that helped us in the eighth or ninth.”
“I still want to play,” Tracy added. “I’ll see wherever it takes me. I’m going to prepare to do the same thing and see if somebody calls. If not, we’ll start a new chapter. I still feel like I have a lot left.”