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Hairston's offseason path leads to Reds

Brief delay to Hairston's year

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- It's safe to say that it was an offseason unlike any other for new Reds infielder Jerry Hairston Jr.

Until signing a Minor League contract on Monday night, which came with an invite to big league camp, Hairston was out of a job as Spring Training was near completing its third week.

"It was a little strange," Hairston said of his offseason. "But I wanted to make sure I found the right fit, too. I wasn't going to just sign to sign. I was a little more patient. I wanted to get into a situation I thought would work. Hopefully, in Cincinnati, things will work out."

A 10-year Major League veteran, Hairston was with the Orioles from 1998-2004 and spent the past 1 1/2 seasons with the Rangers. A lifetime .253 hitter, the 31-year-old batted .189 with three homers and 16 RBIs last season.

Hairston believed his inclusion as one of the 89 players named in the Mitchell Report about performance-enhancing drugs played a role in him being unemployed longer than expected.

"It didn't help, that's for sure," Hairston said while sitting at his new clubhouse locker on Thursday. "It's just unfortunate. I was very fortunate to get a chance to tell my side of the story with the Commissioner's Office. I met with him in the office a month ago, maybe six weeks."

Hairston opted not to provide details of his meeting with Major League Baseball.

"I got a chance to say my side. Let's leave it at that," he said.

In his Mitchell Report deposition, Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski said that he sold human growth hormone "on two or three occasions" to Hairston in 2003 and 2004. In March 2007, Sports Illustrated reported on a probe which alleged that Hairston received a shipment of Genotropin HGH from Allied Pharmacy in Mobile, Ala., in May 2004.

While in Rangers camp last year, Hairston emphatically denied taking steroids. He chose to stand by past statements without elaborating.

"You can go back and look at what I said during Spring Training last year and during the past year, as well," Hairston said. "The last time I'll speak about it was with the Commissioner's Office. I'm very comfortable with the meeting I had with the Commissioner's Office. I'm glad that's behind me."

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The Reds did their due diligence before signing Hairston to a non-guaranteed deal. According to reports, he would receive $500,000 if he's on the Major League roster.

"We were aware that he was on the Mitchell list," general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "We got all the answers we needed to hear and felt good about signing him. Period."

And Hairston felt good about picking Cincinnati in large part because of Reds manager Dusty Baker.

In between Baltimore and Texas, Hairston had a stop in Chicago with the Cubs from 2005-06, when Baker was the dugout boss. Playing for Baker again seemed to fit like a hand sliding into a soft pair of Isotoners for Hairston.

"That had a big part of it," said Hairston, who signed with the Reds the same day as former Cubs outfielder Corey Patterson. "Being with Dusty in Chicago and knowing his managerial style and how he uses all 25 guys, that's pretty big."

Hairston started out his career as second baseman, but he has since diversified his resume. He can play shortstop, third base and all three outfield spots. With utility infielder Jeff Keppinger on the inside track to be the starting shortstop in place of the injured Alex Gonzalez, that could open another spot on the bench for a player like Hairston.

"I wanted to play for a National League team, especially where I'm at this point of my career," Hairston said. "I'm more of an NL-style player, playing every position, and I can run and do a lot of things."

Since arriving at camp on Wednesday, Hairston has quickly immersed himself into hitting in live batting-practice conditions and taking grounders. He must play catch-up before he can play in any games.

"I'm in good condition, physically," Hairston said. "I'm in great shape and ready. As far as the baseball stuff, it'll obviously take a couple of days."

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

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