Huber works versatility to his favor

Prospect Huber works versatility to his favor

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Position changes have become a way of life for Justin Huber.

He was a catcher when signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Mets in 2000, he moved to first base two years ago after being acquired in a trade for Jose Bautista, and he's now playing the outfield as well as first base.

"He's a man without a position," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said, "but he has youth on his side, and the versatility of a baseball player is real important. Justin's versatility will get him to the Major Leagues and his bat will keep him in the Major Leagues. We like him a lot."

Huber, a 24-year-old from Australia, realizes he's probably better off in the long run playing several positions than concentrating on just one, and is more than willing to do whatever it takes to reach the big-leagues and stay there. He's had two proverbial cups of coffee -- appearing in 28 games, batting .218 in 2005, and playing in five games last season, going 2-for-10.

The season was spent mostly with Triple-A Omaha, where he batted .278 with 15 home runs and 44 RBIs.

"I wouldn't say it was a disappointing season," he said, "but it wasn't exactly the kind of season I wanted, or needed. There were some good moments, but a couple of things rubbed salt into some wounds as the season went on. I pulled a hamstring and then jammed a thumb."

As a result, he never was able to get into the groove he had in 2005 when he led the Texas League in batting with a .343 average and was named the Most Valuable Player in the Futures Game at Comerica Park in Detroit.

"My goal in this camp is to do what I can when I get the opportunity to do it."

For the remainder of this camp, Huber will split his time between left field and first base.

"I'll keep working on both because that could help me down the track," he said. "There's a pretty full squad in all positions here, so I know I have to be more versatile."

Huber, who will likely open the season with Omaha, said he has adjusted better to the move from first base to left field than he did from catcher to first base.

"That was a challenge because I never took ground balls until I moved to first base." he said. "When I wasn't catching, I would catch fly balls, but that was it. I took to the outfield pretty good, but fielding ground balls was brand new to me.

"It was actually very interesting and I'm getting the hang of it. The whole game is challenging and I have to learn to deal with it."

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