Baseball is never far from Scott Hairston's mind. A third-generation professional player, the game has become the lifeblood of his spirit. But a month into his offseason, which he has spent golfing and playing with his infant son, Hairston has had to let baseball disappear a bit from his consciousness.
That's because he appears to have reached the crossroads of his career -- at least with the Diamondbacks -- at the ripe old age of 26. His immediate future is uncertain, and thinking about it doesn't help.
A second baseman converted into a left fielder the past two years, it was thought Hairston was being groomed to replace Luis Gonzalez in the Arizona outfield. But a dislocated left shoulder, caused by getting hit by a pitch of all things, wiped out the second half of his 2005 season with Triple-A Tucson and ruined a chance for a late-season recall.
Another shoulder injury this year, which happened in his first game upon being recalled from Tucson on June 19, set him back again. He rebounded and hit .323 in the Pacific Coast League with 20 home runs, eventually making it back to the majors.
But when word hit that Gonzalez would not be invited back next season and that center fielder Eric Byrnes would take over in left next season, it left Hairston in limbo, where he remains today. Chris Young will start in center field, Carlos Quinton will start in right, and with Gold Glove winner Orlando Hudson expected to sign a multiyear contract extension, Hairston can forget about returning to second base.
Jeff DaVanon will return as the club's fourth outfielder, making Hairston a likely candidate to be traded, perhaps in a package deal to bring in another starting pitcher the Diamondbacks so desperately need.
"I really don't know what's going to happen," Hairston said, "but I feel at this point, if they wanted me in their plans, they would communicate better with me. Sometimes, I get the feeling that maybe they just don't know what they want to do with me."
Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin has said Hairston is ready to play in the majors on an everyday basis, but he had to give the politically correct prediction.
"There's going to be a spot for Scotty, whether it's here or somewhere else, if he continues to swing the bat the way he is," Melvin said. "We all know he can hit in the big leagues. It's just a matter of being patient and not getting too frustrated with the fact he hasn't been at the big-league level for a consistent period of time."
Hairston said he isn't worried, that if he doesn't return to the Diamondbacks, he will get his opportunity elsewhere.
"There are a lot of other teams out there," he said. "I think I've put myself in a good position for next year. It's just basically up to the Diamondbacks to decide if they want me or not. That's it. It's not my choice.
"But I'll be OK, whatever happens. I'll be playing baseball, just like always."
Hairston is the ninth member of his family to play pro baseball. His grandfather, Sam, was a star in the Negro Leagues with Cincinnati and Indianapolis. His father, Jerry, played for 14 seasons with the White Sox, and his brother, Jerry Jr., is also a major-leaguer. In addition, his uncle, John, played for the Cubs in 1969 and another uncle and three cousins also played in the minor leagues.
--Area scout Greg Lonigro has been promoted to East Coast supervisor. Fellow area scouts Fred Costello and Steve Kmetko will not return.
--RHP Ross Ohlendorf heads a short list of prospects in the organization who potentially won't have to be added to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Baseball's new labor agreement has significantly changed the protection process, meaning Arizona is less apt to lose a top-caliber player the way it did 2B Dan Uggla to the Marlins.
--Bill Plummer, who recently completed his 20th season as a manager -- the past five in the Diamondbacks' system -- was expected to be named manager of Arizona's Triple-A affiliate in Tucson. He would replace Chip Hale, who has been added to the major league staff in a role yet to be determined. Plummer managed Double-A Tennessee in 2006.
BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Times RF Carlos Quentin was hit by a pitch in 166 at-bats for the Diamondbacks. 9 -- Times 1B Conor Jackson and SS Craig Counsell were hit by pitches, leading the team. Jackson had 485 at-bats, Counsell 372 at-bats. 31 -- Times Quentin was hit by a pitch in 2006 during 318 at-bats with Triple-A Tucson, establishing a Pacific Coast League record.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "For a free swinger, I guess it compensates for him not walking a lot." -- OF Eric Byrnes on rookie RF Carlos Quentin's penchant for getting hit by pitches.
1B Tony Clark, who had right shoulder surgery, should be fine by the time the team reports to spring training. He has one more year left on his contract.
OF Jeff DaVanon underwent surgery to repair a left ankle injury, and he will be ready in time for spring training. He has a player option to return to the club in 2007, and has indicated he plans to exercise it. He also had a cyst removed from his right shoulder late in the season.
From both a philosophical and a financial standpoint, parting ways with Luis Gonzalez and Shawn…