07/13/08 7:40 PM ET
D'Antona hoping promotion is close
D-backs prospect is hitting .375 at Triple-A Tucson
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
After his final game before the All-Star break -- a 1-for-4 night that included a homer and a walk -- next to D'Antona's name where batting average is listed, it read: .375.
"It's strange for me to see in the box score every day too," D'Antona said Sunday while sitting in the Yankees' dugout preparing for the XM All-Star Futures Game. "It's something I never would have dreamed of. I mean at the beginning of a season you hope that you hit .300."
At .375 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs, chances are good that the 26-year-old will finish the season at over .300. The bigger question is will he finish the year at Triple-A Tucson or will his mind-boggling numbers earn him a shot at joining the Arizona Diamondbacks at some point.
It's fair to wonder if D'Antona should have already gotten the call. After all, the D-backs have struggled offensively as a team since their torrid April. Meanwhile, D'Antona continues to rake.
"I don't worry about it," D'Antona said about not being called up. "I don't look at it. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. If I sit there and think about it and see who's going up and get mad and worry about if my time is running out, then I'm not going to play well. You have play the cards you're dealt and everything will fall into place."
D'Antona was once among one of the team's top prospects after being selected in the second round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. That was the same Draft that yielded Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin in the first round. While those two have gone on to establish themselves at the big league level, D'Antona is still waiting for his chance.
It looked like he might move quickly through the Arizona system when he reached Double-A toward the end of his second pro season. The following year, though, he struggled at that level and hit just .249, which prompted the organization to make him repeat that level in 2006.
"The one year I was in Double-A, I just didn't do well," D'Antona said. "I'm hoping the last few years have proven that was a fluke."
D'Antona hit .310 in 2006 at Double-A and .308 for Tucson last year.
The lack of a true position has hurt D'Antona as has the perception among scouts that he has too long of a swing. Drafted as a right fielder out of Wake Forest University, he has also played first, third and catcher, as well.
When the season started, D'Antona didn't have a regular starting job, but an injury to third baseman Jesus Merchan gave him an opportunity for more time and he's made the most of it. In his second season in the Pacific Coast League, D'Antona has taken advantage of knowing the league's pitchers to help him at the plate. That's where he's focused his mental energies this year and not on a possible promotion.
"Otherwise you're just going to drive yourself insane," D'Antona said. "There are a lot of things that go on in this game which you have no control over and the one thing you can control is how you approach it. If you worry about what happens and management and things like that, you're never going to do well."
It's an attitude that has not gone unnoticed by the Arizona front office.
"Opportunities arise at different times and different places," D-backs farm director A.J. Hinch said. "What you want to do is put yourself in the best position possible to take advantage of any opportunity. Certainly with his numbers and his attitude, Jamie has done that."
One thing working in D'Antona's favor could be the way the trade market has shaped up so far. The D-backs have looked to upgrade their offense, but so far have found the price to be prohibitive. If that continues to be the case, maybe D'Antona will get a shot.
He's certainly earned it.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.