Mailbag: Might Byrd return?

Mailbag: Might Byrd return to Kansas City?

How long do you think it will be before the Royals are in playoff contention again?
-- Bryce C., Tarkio, Mo.

This could be surprisingly quick. Just remember that the Royals unexpectedly vaulted into contention in 2003, holding first place for 90-plus days.

The American League Central, led by the World Series champion White Sox, has shed its weakling tag, so it'll be tougher now. But if -- and it's a big if -- the younger starting pitchers develop rapidly, it could happen as early as 2007.

What ever happened to Carlos Febles' plans to return to the Royals? We could sure use him back at second base.
-- Hank K, Iraq

The Royals re-signed Febles and sent him through rehabilitation for a knee injury, but they want him to be a Minor League coach or instructor. His Major League playing days probably are over.

Why would the Royals trade for Rangers outfielder Kevin Mench when they already have some players who could have the same stats as Mench if they'd get to start 150 games?
-- Clayton S., Great Bend, Kan.

Last season, Mench had 25 home runs, 33 doubles and 73 RBIs. Quite frankly, the Royals do not believe they have anyone with that potential who is ready for the Majors.

Are the Royals interested in free agent outfielder Jacque Jones?
-- Grant H., Kansas City, Mo.

Sure, even though his last two seasons yielded averages of just .249 and .254, lowest in his career with the Twins. However, he still popped 23 home runs and had 73 RBIs last season and finished with totals of 24 and 80, respectively, in 2004. As a fielder, the Royals rate him as average.

What are the chances of the Royals acquiring outfielder Corey Patterson, who needs a change of scenery from the Cubs?
-- Kevin S., Carney, Iowa

The word is that the Royals are not interested in Patterson.

The last I heard, Mark Quinn was with the Cardinals. What happened to him?
-- Justin N., Lenexa, Kan.

Quinn, 30, surfaced last summer in the independent Golden Baseball League with the Long Beach Armada. He hit .268 in 26 games with two homers and 13 RBIs. In 2004, with the Cardinals' Triple-A Memphis club, Quinn had a .218 average in 24 games, but was hurt and subsequently released.

Reaching his pinnacle in 2000, Quinn banged 20 home runs and had 78 RBIs for the Royals. He was named American League Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News. In 1999, he had two homers in his first Major League game.

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The outfielder is also remembered for two oddities: In 2001, he made 241 plate appearances without drawing an unintentional walk; in 2002, he reported to Spring Training with a cracked rib suffered while Kung Fu fighting with his brother in the kitchen.

Why are the Royals looking for another veteran starter when he will just take away innings from the younger pitchers?
-- Kevin L., Wichita, Kan.

For one thing, the club wants a veteran leader to help steer the kids in the right direction. Also, there's a need for some victories to create some excitement and put fans in the seats.

Which free agent pitcher has the best chance of coming to Kansas City next year?
-- Brian M., Lee's Summit, Mo.

Just guessing, Paul Byrd. He became something of a folk hero in KC when he won 17 games in 2002 for a Royals team that had just 62 victories. He's a thinking-man's pitcher who could school the KC kids. He also has a knack for throwing strikes, an obsession of Royals management.

But it'll be tough, because this is a slim year for quality free agent pitchers, and, subsequently, offers are skyrocketing. Byrd's base salary with the Angels last year was $5 million, but he'll likely draw offers of much more in a multi-year deal.

I heard the Royals are getting new uniforms. Any idea what they're going to look like?
-- Kevin M., Independence, Mo.

Yes, they are and yes, I do. We've received a lot of inquiries about this. However, the club is keeping everything hush-hush until an unveiling, probably in January. Hint: the uniforms will have a more traditional look.

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