Baseball: Trot toiling in Tucson

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 26, 2008

By Bob Baum
Associated Press
TUCSON, Ariz. ó The roar of adoring crowds of Fenway Park has been replaced by a smattering of applause in Triple-A Tucson.
Trot Nixon, once the epitome of Boston Red Sox grit and determination, is toiling for the Tucson Sidewinders and hoping at age 34 for another shot at the big leagues.
If it’s not with Sidewinders’ parent club, the Arizona Diamondbacks, then somewhere else, and he doesn’t know why he hasn’t gotten a call.
“You can ask why all day long, and you may never find the answer,” Nixon said. “You just keep plugging away and doing what you can to help the team win ballgames, and let that decision be made by other front offices.”
Though he’s not the player he once was, Nixon hopes that someone will need a left-handed hitter who hit .275 in the big leagues with 136 home runs and 555 RBIs.
“There have been some opportunities out there and I wish I could have been a part of them.” Nixon said. “Sometimes you really don’t know what I’ve done, and it’s usually nothing that a player’s done. They just see other players as a better fit.”
Barring injuries, Nixon’s chance probably won’t come with the Diamondbacks. The return to health of Arizona’s Miguel Montero and Chad Tracy pretty much closed that door.
“For us it was always a bit of a narrow opportunity,” Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes said. “Montero came back, Tracy’s coming back, but Trot can still play.”
It’s a long ways from those heady days in Boston, where Nixon had some of the most memorable hits in Red Sox history.
Among them:
– A game-winning two-run homer in the 11th inning of Game 3 of the 2003 AL division series against Oakland.
– A ninth-inning two-run home run at Yankee Stadium on May 28, 2000, for the only runs in a duel between the Yankees’ Roger Clemens and Boston’s Pedro Martinez.
– A three-run double off St. Louis’ Jason Marquis in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series as Boston completed a sweep of the Cardinals.
– A ninth-inning grand slam off Turk Wendell in Philadelphia on Sept. 1, 2003, to help Boston rally for a crucial 13-9 victory. He had a career-best six RBIs.
– A three-homer game in 1999 against Detroit, the first Boston player to achieve that feat since Fred Lynn in 1975.
In 2003, Nixon batted a career-best .306 with 28 home runs and 87 RBIs.
He spent eight years in Boston before the team let him go and signed free agent J.D. Drew after the 2006 season. Nixon signed a one-year, $3 million deal in 2007 with Cleveland, where he hit .251 in 99 games with three homers and 31 RBIs.
Then he found himself out of work.
The only team to show interest was the Diamondbacks, who signed him to a minor league deal in February. There was talk of playing the lifetime outfielder some at first base. The team experimented with it in spring training only to abandon the idea.
Young outfielder Alex Romero beat out Nixon for Arizona’s final opening day roster spot. In the handful of moves the Diamondbacks have made since, Nixon stayed in Tucson, where he has played only the outfield and as designated hitter.
Nixon indicated his work at first was a waste of time.
“If I’d have known that if I didn’t make the team I’d be spending my whole time in the outfield I would have just gone to the outfield and stayed in the outfield in big league camp,” he said.
That’s as close to bitterness as Nixon came in the interview.
“He’s been good,” Tucson manager Bill Plummer said. “He’s been one of our best hitters. The hard thing about Trot here is when we do have opportunities to drive in runs, they pitch around him. It’s been a tough scenario for him. He gets frustrated at times.”