Nixon glad to have another shot

Nixon glad to have another shot with D-backs

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Just how tough an offseason it was for Trot Nixon became apparent when he was asked Saturday if he accepted the D-backs' offer of a Minor League contract because it presented him with the best opportunity to be in the big leagues.

"I don't know about best; it was the only opportunity I had as far as going to camp," Nixon said as he stood in front of his locker at Tucson Electric Park surrounded by his new teammates. "This was the only opportunity to go to big league camp I had."

Nixon hit .251 with 17 doubles, three homers and 31 RBIs in 99 games for the Indians last year after spending the previous 10 years with the Red Sox.

"Even though my playing time diminished last year, I stayed off the DL all year," he said. "That was kind of a bonus for me. It's been since '01 or '02 that I haven't been on the DL, so that's a good thing."

After the season ended, Nixon waited for the phone to ring, but there didn't seem to be much interest.

"It felt like I was probably going to be at home," Nixon said. "If baseball is the absolute priority in your life, it can be difficult, but when I say that, I don't mean I don't care about baseball. It's just that I've got a wife and two kids and I've got a relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything works for a reason, everything is done for a reason and whatever path I'm set on, I need to be strong and believe that this is the path I should be on.

"It was kind of late and I had my battles with it. I didn't understand it, but I think three weeks ago, there was probably 100 guys that felt the same way."

With Chad Tracy's status for Opening Day uncertain after having microfracture surgery on his right knee last September, the D-backs were looking for some insurance at first base. Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes, who knew Nixon from his days as assistant GM in Boston, invited Nixon to work out for the team last Sunday.

"To bring him in at this late date, we wanted to lay out our opportunity, the good and bad of our offer, as accurately as we could," Byrnes said. "We're glad he took it. He's had a very good Major League career. He's a 33-year-old guy and a guy who's used to winning, so that's a good thing to have."

Nixon will have the opportunity to ask for his release should he not be added to the Major League roster by the last week of Spring Training. Otherwise, the team expects he will accept an assignment to Triple-A Tucson at the beginning of the year.

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"It's a pretty complicated deal, but essentially there's his base salary at the minimum," Byrnes said. "There's a daily rate for active days and there are some areas where if he's there for a partial season -- we discussed all the scenarios involved with that. Contractually, as best we can, it accounts for all scenarios."

Nixon's main focus now is learning to play first base, a position he has never played at the Major League level before.

While waiting for an opportunity, Nixon worked out at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington near his home. Along with taking ground balls at first, Nixon also participated in intrasquad games there to try to get a feel for what game action is like there.

"Pretty comfortable over there," he said. "As far as taking ground balls and making throws to second, it's not easy all the time, but I think the biggest difference is getting out there in game situations."

D-backs manager Bob Melvin said that he won't start Nixon right away at first during Cactus League games, but rather will ease him into it by using him as a defensive sub.

"That's the benefit of Spring Training," Byrnes said. "As long as it may seem sometimes, it's also a time a guy like him can go out there and get some innings at first base and see how it works."

New position or not, Nixon is just thankful for the chance to wear a uniform again.

"The biggest thing for me is that I have a job and an opportunity to be a part of this," he said. "This team is pretty well set and hopefully all these guys get healthy and stay healthy and be ready to go, but if opportunities arise where I get a chance to play and stay with this team, I look forward to that."

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