Cubs set roster, part ways with Millar

Cubs set roster, part ways with Millar

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Cubs decided they needed a left-handed bat and someone who could back up at third base over a right-handed hitter and picked Chad Tracy over Kevin Millar for the final roster spot Tuesday.

Micah Hoffpauir and Sam Fuld were both optioned to Triple-A Iowa and catcher Chris Robinson was assigned to the Minor League camp to bring the roster to 25.

"The decisions weren't easy but that's the way we decided to go," manager Lou Piniella said. "Everybody had merits and everybody had different contributions."

Before Millar got the news, he admitted Wednesday that it's been a tough week waiting.

"You have no control of that stuff; it's the organization's decision," Millar said. "It's a miserable feeling from the player's side. You hear, 'Well, relax, don't worry about it, don't press.' You're human. I'm 38 years old and have almost 5,000 at-bats in the big leagues. You're still going to try to press to do well. That's the human factor. It's your career."

The personable Millar was an instant hit in the Cubs clubhouse this spring, where he was reunited with former Florida teammates Derrek Lee and Ryan Dempster.

"[Millar] brings intangibles to the table but so do the rest of them," general manager Jim Hendry said. "He knew before camp started that it was kind of a long shot."

Hendry met one-on-one with Millar on Tuesday to give him the news.

"Kevin was great," Hendry said. "He's a pro. I think he knew that I agonized over [the decision]. He's a guy you'd always want in your organization. I'm not here to say he's done [playing]. He knows down the road he's a potential employee here. He'd be a great coach. He's a tremendous human being and helped some guys here even though he's not getting on the plane Saturday."

With the Cubs trimming their roster this quickly, Millar may be able to catch on with another team.

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The Cubs bench is much different from a year ago and more experienced. They now have Tracy, Xavier Nady, Jeff Baker, Koyie Hill and rookie Tyler Colvin. Last year, the Cubs broke camp with Hoffpauir, Hill, Reed Johnson, Joey Gathright, and Aaron Miles.

A career .274 hitter, Millar batted .242 this spring.

"Statistically, I haven't hit .450 or had 10 home runs," he said. "The last few days I've struggled. I've tried to do too much. You want to get a couple hits here and that's the wrong approach and I know better than that."

Last year, he made the Blue Jays roster in the last week and batted .223 in 78 games. What if this is the end?

"If this is the end, you shake hands," Millar said. "The one thing in my career, I've never been released and I wouldn't do anything differently. I've had as much fun as I could and played as hard as I could with limited ability. Do I feel this is the end? I'd say no."

There are some who look at Millar and his "Cowboy Up" get-up and happy-go-lucky attitude and consider him more of a mascot than someone who can contribute to the team.

"You get labeled, 'Oh, he's a great clubhouse guy,'" Millar said. "I'm going to give you a tough at-bat late in the game. You're a threat. Anybody who can hit a home run is considered a threat off the bench. I'm a threat off the bench.

"There's things that I can do to help the club other than being the dancing bear and trying to get everybody to eat together. We forget about that side of it. I've had a lot of at-bats in the big league."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.