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Tracy thriving in third managerial stint

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Tracy Ringolsby

Tracy Ringolsby is a Hall of Fame baseball writer. He is in his 37th year covering Major League Baseball, is a co-founder of Baseball America, and is in his fourth year as pregame and postgame analyst for Colorado Rockies games on Root Sports.

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Jim Tracy tries to be diplomatic, but it isn't easy. He is managing the Colorado Rockies, having taken over when Clint Hurdle was fired a month ago, and Tracy admits his third time as a big-league manager has extra meaning.
And the fact the Rockies have been the hottest team in baseball since Tracy began filling out the lineup card only adds to the feeling of redemption for Tracy, particularly after what became a two-year nightmare in Pittsburgh. "After Pittsburgh, I felt I had something to prove," he admitted. "It was a personal thing. There never was a question about my ability to run a game. I relish having the opportunity to do it one more time and to have the weapons to work with where you know the program you put together is going to work." Things are certainly working well for Tracy so far in Colorado. The Rockies have won 22 of 29 games since he became manager, and fresh off a weekend sweep in Oakland, they arrive at Dodger Stadium on Monday night having won 20 of their last 23 games. Having enjoyed a sweep of the Pirates at Coors Field the weekend of June 19-21, now Tracy gets to sit across the field from the other team he once managed, the Dodgers, and has every reason to feel the Rockies will be a much better team than one that lost eight of nine games against the Dodgers earlier this season. The recent Rockies, after all, have won six of their last seven series, including sweeps at St. Louis, Milwaukee and Oakland, as well Pittsburgh and Seattle at Coors Field. With three games remaining to be played against the Dodgers, the Rockies' 20 wins this June have equaled the franchise single-month record set in September of 2007, when the Rockies went 20-8 en route to the first World series appearance in franchise history. What's more, the Rockies have had their recent success and moved themselves into the postseason picture — they are a half-game back of wild-card leader San Francisco and have cut their deficit to the NL West-leading Dodgers by eight games to 7 ½. And by the time they complete their visit to Dodger Stadium this week, they will have played only 32 of 78 games at Coors Field, giving them a decided home-field advantage in the second half of the season. In both of his previous managerial tours, Tracy has been caught in the midst of a front-office overhaul that led to a stark change in organizational philosophy. Hired by the Dodgers for the 2001 season, he had two 90-plus-win seasons in his first four years and won the NL West in 2004, but shortly before the start of spring training that year, Dan Evans was fired as general manager and numbers-oriented Paul DePodesta was hired from Oakland to replace Evans. By mid-season a remaking of the roster had begun, which included trading catcher Paul Lo Duca, outfielder Juan Encarnacion and eighth-inning reliever Guillermo Rivera to Florida in a deal that brought back right-hander Brad Penny and first base prospect Hee Seop Choi. And the roster remake continued the following offseason, which was followed by a 71-91 finish in 2005 and the firing of Tracy. "We had a good, young nucleus, and a lot of those guys over there right now were at (Double A) Jacksonville," Tracy said. "You felt you have the type of talent that would give you a chance for a six-, seven-, eight-year run. I felt that was taken away. It was disappointing." Then came the nightmare that was Pittsburgh, where the general manager who hired him, Dave Littlefield, was fired toward the end of the 2007 season, Then the new regime decided to clean house, sending Tracy on his way after two seasons and 189 losses when he balked at firing his coaches.

Hot seat

Seattle refuses to go away. The Mariners want to be a factor in the AL West. Their legitimacy is certainly getting a strong test this week. Fresh off taking two of three from the NL West-leading Dodgers at Dodger Stadium during the weekend, Seattle now heads East, playing the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in three games beginning Tuesday and then spending next weekend playing Boston at Fenway Park. The Mariners are expecting lefty Erik Bedard to be activated for the July 4 game at Boston. He has been out since June 7 with inflammation in his left shoulder, upon which surgery was performed last November. Bedard was off to a quality start (5-2, 2.47 ERA) before being placed on the disabled list.

Series stuff

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are in undisputed possession of the AL West lead for the first time this season, having finally overtaken Texas. The Rangers get a chance to regain control, however. They face the Angels in a three-game series beginning Monday night. The key game is on Wednesday when Rangers workhorse Kevin Millwod starts against Angels stalwart Jered Weaver.

Milestone watch

Ken Griffey, Jr., is continuing his climb up all-time charts. Griffey has 1,274 walks, two shy of moving into 40th on the all-time list, ahead of John Olerud. He has appeared in 2,578 games, six shy of surpassing Steven Finley for 39th on the all-time list. He has 1,274 walks, four shy of moving ahead of Al Kaline into 39th on the all-time list.

Keep an eye on

Right-hander Roy Halladay (strained groin) comes off the disabled list to start on Monday night against Tampa Bay. Halladay had won seven consecutive decisions prior to coming out of a June 12 start against Florida after three innings with the injury. The Jays are 10-4 in games Halladay has started, 31-32 in all other games. Halladay has had some success against Tampa (11-7), but his real success has come against the Yankees, who he will face in Yankee Stadium in his second start back on Sunday. He is 16-5 with a 2.79 career ERA against the Yankees. He was 7-4 with a 2.97 ERA at Yankee Stadium, but this will be his first appearance at the new Yankee Stadium. He did pitch a five-hit, 5-1, complete-game victory against the Yankees in Toronto earlier this season.

FYI

Cleveland DH Travis Hafner leads active players with six home runs on July 4. Duke Snider is the all-time leader with nine, one more than Willie Mays.

Quickly

Catcher Buster Posey, San Francisco's first-round draft pick a year ago out of Florida State, could be promoted from Single-A San Jose directly to Triple-A Fresno. In his first 68 games with San Jose, Posey hit .321 with 11 home runs and 48 RBI. ... Normally when big-league players rehab in the minors, the big leaguers treat the minor league players to a postgame treat. Lefty Will Ohman, for example, had a meal catered by Outback Steakhouse after he rehabbed at the Dodgers' Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate, and right-hander Claudio Vargas had P.F. Chang's cater a meal. Manny Ramirez? He didn't even stay around for the end of his first two games, and after each of the three games Ramirez played in the minor leagues, players had their regular postgame pizza. ... Lefties Tom Glavine and Shawn Estes may be out of work, but both have made it known they have not retired and would like to get another chance to pitch in the big leagues.
Tagged: Brad Penny, Rockies, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels, Indians, Will Ohman, Roy Halladay, Dodgers, Erik Bedard, Yankees, Mariners, Manny Ramirez, Travis Hafner, Rangers, Pirates

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