Mailbag: Who will the D-Backs pick?

Mailbag: Who will the D-Backs pick No. 1?

Who are the Diamondbacks going to choose with their first pick in the First-Year Player Draft next week? -- Paul, Phoenix

The Diamondbacks have narrowed it down to four players -- pitchers Mike Pelfrey, Luke Hochevar and Craig Hansen, along with infielder Justin Upton. Pelfrey is a right-handed pitcher from Wichita State; Hochevar is a righty from the University of Tennessee; and Hansen is a right-handed closer out of St. John's University. Upton, the younger brother of B.J., is a high school shortstop from Virginia.

All three of the pitchers are represented by Scott Boras, who also is Stephen Drew's agent, but Arizona scouting director Mike Rizzo said that won't be a factor in deciding who to select.

What causes Russ Ortiz to go in those big slumps? He was pretty awesome in his last start, but the time before, he was not good at all. -- Kerry C., W.Va.

Ortiz has had a history of getting himself into jams, but then finding a way to make a pitch when he needs to in order to get out of them. This year, he's just putting too many people on base via hits and walks, and while he's worked his way out of quite a few jams, sometimes it's caught up to him.

He's always walked a fair number of hitters, but this year his walk total is high, even for him. He gets a lot of movement on his pitches, and sometimes they end up moving out of the strike zone. It's something he's going to have to figure out if he wants to have better results.

With the Diamondbacks being competitive so far and the National League West being a very winnable division, do the D-Backs have the leeway to take on salary near the trade deadline to pick up a piece they need for a playoff run? -- Chris S., Sierra Vista, Ariz.

The Diamondbacks had budged about $60 million for their payroll this year and wound up with it being around $57.5 on Opening Day. That leaves them with some room to trade for a player this summer if they are still in the postseason hunt.

One thing to keep in mind is that teams will be asking about Arizona's top prospects, like Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos, and I think it's highly unlikely the D-Backs would trade them.

Did Randy Choate stay in the Diamondbacks' organization after he was released or did he go elsewhere? -- Will, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Choate cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Tucson, where he is currently pitching for the Sidewinders. He is still under contract with the Diamondbacks through next season.

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What role do you see Scott Hairston playing when he is inevitably called back up -- outfield, infield, utility? -- Fernando D., Tucson, Ariz.

That's a tough one to answer at this point. It sure seems right now that Hairston's future is in the outfield. He's played left field at Tucson, but he also has put in some time in center. As a corner outfielder, it would seem his prospects in Arizona would be limited, considering left fielder Luis Gonzalez is under contract through next year and right fielder Shawn Green is signed through 2007. In addition, Quentin is a corner outfielder and is on the verge of being Major League ready, if he isn't already.

If Hairston could play center, that would really help him out, as center fielder Jose Cruz Jr. is only under contract for this season.

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