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Bortnick using Fall play to prove he belongs

Special to
In his short life as a professional baseball player, Tyler Bortnick has learned nothing is a surprise.

"You have to be ready for anything," he said.

And so it was in late July when the infielder was traded by the Tampa Bay Rays to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The man for whom Bortnick was traded, infielder Ryan Roberts, had become a cult hero in Arizona. Roberts was affectionately known as "Tatman" for his array of tattoos and his hustling playing style.

Bortnick doesn't have all of that artwork. He simply wants to make his mark with an aggressive approach of his own.

The D-backs thought highly enough of the 25-year-old to place him in the Arizona Fall League, featuring many of Major League Baseball's top prospects.

It is Bortnick's second tour of duty in the AFL. A year ago, the Rays' 16th-round pick in 2009 was with the Surprise Saguaros. Following the trade, he now is a Salt River Rafter. His manager is D-backs third base coach Matt Williams, a long-time star third baseman for Arizona, San Francisco and Cleveland.

Bortnick knows Williams will be watching closely, as will others in the club's front office.

"Somebody is watching everything you do," Bortnick said before the Rafters' opener against the Mesa Solar Sox on Tuesday. "There are 30 teams out there, and until I get to the big leagues, I feel I am working for all of them, in a way."

Bortnick has played second base, third base and shortstop in his four Minor League seasons. He likely will see most of his time at second in the AFL.

"I'm out here to work hard, do whatever I can, do whatever Matt wants me to do. If that means being a utility guy will get me to the Major Leagues, that's what I will do," Bortnick said.

He split his time in 2012 between Tampa's Double-A affiliate in Montgomery, Ala. and Arizona's Triple-A club in Reno, Nev. Bortnick hit .253 in 95 games for Montgomery and .212 in 39 games for Reno. But the number that jumps out at you is his stolen-base total -- 136 thefts in four seasons.

"It's not always numbers that tell the whole story," Bortnick said. "I feel I have held my own. I've had some quality at-bats, my base-running and defense ... everything gets noticed.

"I have some pop [23 home runs], I can steal you a bag and I can score runs. I am a grinder. I think I fit in well with Arizona. They are an aggressive team and I am an aggressive player."

D-backs farm director Mike Bell recently told he thought Bortnick managed his time in Triple-A well and did a good job considering he had not reached that level before.

Bortnick said he has been keeping tabs on Arizona's big club and likes what he sees, particularly young pitchers such as Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley and Tyler Skaggs.

"They have the makings of a really good team, a championship team, and I want to be part of it," he said.

Don Ketchum is a contributor to

Tyler Bortnick