For one last day, Mark Grace was a No. 3 hitter again. He even hit like one.
Grace, who will retire as a player after the season ends today, started Saturday for the Diamondbacks at first base. He went 2-for-3 to raise his season average to .200 and received standing ovations after a first-inning double and again after singling in the sixth.
“I think I'm going to hold off retirement and play another year,” he joked.
“That was good, especially hitting a double,” manager Bob Brenly said. “That's kind of been his signature hit throughout his career.”
Grace was removed for a pinch runner after the second hit, waving his helmet to the crowd as he went into the dugout and emerging for a curtain call.
“It was fun,” he said. “It was fun to get out there.
“For some reason the fans have taken to me, and I can't thank them enough.”
Grace hit third for the first time since June 15 at Minnesota and the second time since July 29, 2002.
“I thought since this was going to be his last start, we'll put him in a spot where he spent most of his career,” Brenly said. “Also get him up there right way in the first inning.”
Grace last had a multi-hit game June 6, against Cleveland. The double was the 511th of his career, 34th all-time.
Brenly said the ideal scenario today would be for Grace to get a pinch-hit double and walk off to an ovation as he is removed for a pinch runner.
“We'll get him on the field, and hopefully give him a chance to make his curtain call,” Brenly said.
Unless the Diamondbacks get an extension, they have only until Wednesday to decide whether to exercise the option on pitcher Miguel Batista.
If Arizona declines the $5 million option, Batista gets a $300,000 buyout. Batista was 10-9 with a 3.54 ERA this year, leading the team in innings pitched and second in games started.
The past three springs, the Diamondbacks took pride in their efficient workout schedule. But next year, sessions might not leave time for afternoon golf.
“The last couple of years we've been a very veteran team and went to spring training with that in mind,” Brenly said. “But now we're leaning in the other direction. We have a lot of young players, and we're going to spend more time working on fundamentals and covering some of the things we didn't have to cover in the past, because the Jay Bells and Matt Williamses and Mark Graces of the world already knew how to do bunt defenses.”
Arizona has made 104 errors, second-most in team history. Danny Bautista on Saturday became the 13th D-Backs baserunner this year doubled off on a liner.
Boston is going to the postseason while Arizona isn't, but that doesn't seem to bother Shea Hillenbrand, who was traded from the Red Sox to the D-Backs in May.
“You can't control that stuff,” said the Mountain View High School and Mesa Community College product. “I think this team is just as capable of going to the playoffs as the Red Sox were. I'm just thankful I have the opportunity to play here. I've always wanted to play here.
“It's not tough. I'm going to watch every (Boston) game because I've got a lot of friends on that team.”
Craig Counsell said his subpar season (.235 average) had nothing to do with his neck injury and subsequent spinal fusion surgery a year ago. “It doesn't affect the way I play,” he said. “The biggest problem was in spring training with my arm. I think I succeeded there. My arm is as good as it's ever been, I think. . . . There has been some soreness some days, but nothing I can't live with.”