Last August the infield became awkwardly different. They had Adam Dunn at first and David Eckstein at second, both of them post-trading-deadline acquisitions. D’backs color commentator Mark Grace said it looked “like a father son game” on the right side of the infield, and that was scarily accurate. Now they’re both gone, and the infield looks more familiar. Wait, where’d Orlando Hudson go? No worries. Let’s take a gander in counterclockwise fashion:
• CHAD TRACY, 1B — It’s hard to believe this is his sixth season in Arizona. That almost makes him the institutionalized one. They keep flopping him between first and third, goatee and no goatee, so hopefully the lefty can stay (a) healthy and (b) at first, where he can repeat his 2005 season, when he hit .308 with 27 home runs.
• FELIPE LOPEZ, 2B — You gotta believe the nadir in his baseball career was getting released by the Nationals last year at the trade deadline. But he had two fantastic months when picked up by the Cardinals, and he’s done well at getting on base this spring training. Like Tracy, his best year was in ’05 when he actually made the All-Star team, mainly because he was on the Reds and the NL had a down year for shortstops. Arizona would love to see that happen again this year.
• STEPHEN DREW, SS — Last year was pretty good for the young 2004 first-round pick, but everyone knows he can still improve. This could be his breakout season, since it is a contract year.
• MARK REYNOLDS, 3B — I never know what to say about this guy. Truthfully, I keep forgetting he’s on the team. It’s either because he has a very common name or he struck out 200 times last year, leading the NL. Maybe if he can cut down on those babies, my selective memory won’t omit him.
• CHRIS SNYDER, C — His batting numbers are extremely mediocre, but a gifted catcher is a rarity and tough to retain in this market. Snyder has been behind the plate for five seasons, so he knows this rotation well and that will help everybody.
• TONY CLARK, 1B — It still kills me that this guy is still on a major league team. He’s the sort of man you’d think would have retired by now. But he’s a switch-hitting power hitter in the Matt Stairs mold.
• AUGIE OJEDA, UTIL — Here’s my Augie Ojeda story. In 2007, when I failed to pay attention to them all that much (blame the Tigers), I finally began watching them in the postseason and saw Augie Ojeda hit a double. I thought to myself, “wait, the team is finally back in the playoffs and Augie Ojeda‘s helping?” I was wholly confused. Later I learned he was starting only because Hudson was hurt, and the D’backs success didn’t have much to do with him. Systems returned to normal.
• MIGUEL MONTERO, C — Hey, whatever happened to Robby Hammock? He was on ESPN Classic last night, catching Randy Johnson’s perfect game. (Answer: in the Orioles minor league system. We will never hear from him again.)
Conclusion: The starters are all in their mid-to-late twenties, and the backups are aging hangers-on. Something tells me every infielder is due for a career year, and that could be wonderful news in a division where the enigmatic Dodgers are heralded as being the favorite to win.