Mailbag: Will Stairs step up at first?

Mailbag: Will Stairs step up at first base?

I noticed you had Matt Stairs in your projected lineup at first base. Isn't Doug Mientkiewicz a better defensive first baseman and a little more consistent hitter?
-- Jeremy D., Pittsburg, Kan.

I've taken a lot of flak on this one. At the time I made that projection, the Royals had not yet signed Reggie Sanders, so some punch was needed in the lineup. Still, I wonder.

Management indicates that Mientkiewicz will "get a considerable amount of time." Since hitting .300 for the Twins in 2003, he's had two subpar seasons; he hit just .240 with 29 RBIs -- but with 11 home runs -- last year for the Mets. Stairs, in his two seasons as a part-time player for the Royals, has averaged .271 while hitting a total of 31 homers with 66 RBIs each year. He's always ready to step in at first, DH or the outfield. When next season ends, let's check the total games played at first base, and then you'll know how dumb I am.

Do the Royals have one of the tallest groups in baseball, especially in the pitching department? Maybe they're in the wrong sport.
-- K., Ohio

The pitchers include 6-foot-10 Andrew Sisco, Scott Elarton and Kyle Snyder (recently taken off the roster), who are both 6-foot-8, along with Mark Redman and Denny Bautista, both of whom are 6-foot-5. Volleyball, anyone?

With Sanders coming in as the right fielder, who is the top candidate for left field?
-- Ben D., Lee's Summit, Mo.

Emil Brown will shift from right field to left. He'll be expected to show that his sudden, unexpected success as a Major League hitter was no fluke. He'll have to field better, too, because Chip Ambres and Aaron Guiel also want that spot.

Where do you expect Sanders to hit, in front of or after Mike Sweeney?
-- John E., Pasadena, Calif.

Manager Buddy Bell likes Sweeney in the No. 3 spot, so Sanders is likely to bat fourth. However, Sanders still has good speed and is an aggressive baserunner. If he's hot, Sanders might be a good fit hitting ahead of the plodding Sweeney.

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Will Angel Berroa be around much longer? If so, how long?
-- Robbie E., Wichita, Kan.

Berroa's contract runs through 2009 when the Royals hold a club option on renewing at $5.5 million. That would make him a seven-year-plus Royal. He could be traded before then, of course.

What happened to Ken Harvey? He was pretty explosive a few years ago.
-- Jason A., Des Moines, Iowa

Harvey, after missing most of last season with a back strain, tore an Achilles tendon in the fall while working out in Arizona. He had surgery and will miss most of next season.

I'm very pleased with the offseason additions, and I'm enthusiastic about the direction of the team. But, after a 56-106 season, is 70 to 80 wins a realistic goal?
-- Bruce T., Ventura, Calif.

Lest we forget, the 2003 club jumped to 83 victories from 62 the year before. If the veteran acquisitions are as gritty and talented as the Royals believe, a 20-win increase is not unthinkable.

How is David DeJesus recovering from his injury last year?
-- Blake W., Isla Vista, Calif.

DeJesus missed the last month with a strained right shoulder, sustained Aug. 28 at Yankee Stadium. "He's healthy," said Royals general manager Allard Baird. "Everything is fine, and he's ready to go."

What do you think Ambiorix Burgos' role will be next season?
-- Dennis B., Syracuse, N.Y.

He'll start as a setup man for Mike MacDougal. If MacDougal has trouble coping as closer, Burgos would be a logical choice to try in that role.

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