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Versatile Maier learning new position

Minors report: Maier honing skills at first

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mitch Maier was drafted as a catcher in the first round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft out of Toledo, was moved to third base in 2004 and then to the outfield in 2005.

In a Spring Training game, Maier made his debut at first base.

Manager Buddy Bell said don't read too much into that. Maier is still considered an outfielder, plus the Royals have Ryan Shealy, who was acquired in a trade last July with the Rockies, at first base.

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"It's a position that adds value," Maier said. "If Shealy needs a day off, it is just another position that helps me help the team."

Maier began taking ground balls at first base at the end of last season when the Royals called him up for the first time. His initial first-base experience proved to be rather routine.

"I was ready for it," Maier said. "There were no ground balls, but I had a couple of double plays where I just had to cover the bag. It was pretty basic. Nothing really caught me off guard."

Maier, who hit .306 in 2006 with Double-A Wichita, will likely start the season with Triple-A Omaha, but in center field, not at first base.

On the move: Infielder Fernando Cortez, who was acquired in a trade last June with the Devil Rays, started Spring Training going 6-for-12 in the first 10 games.

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On the pine: Infielder Alex Sanchez has tightness in his hamstring and has missed the past two games.

Names in the game: Richard Lewis, the 2004 Southern League MVP, was added to the Royals big-league camp as a non-roster invitee after second baseman Mark Grudzielanek had knee surgery. The Royals picked Lewis in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

They're No. 1: Billy Butler, a first-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, is hitting .562 with one home run and three doubles in his first 16 at-bats.

Class of '06: Luke Hochevar, who was the No. 1 overall pick last June, allowed one hit and no runs in two innings in his first Spring Training appearance against the White Sox. Hochevar is slated to start the season with Double-A Wichita.

What they're saying: "He's got good stuff. He's got a good body [6-foot-4, 215 pounds]. He's athletic. He competes. We love his arm. Like any other young kid, he has trouble finding the plate at times. His mechanics are fairly sound, but he doesn't repeat his mechanics like he needs to and that is a problem. We feel at some point, he'll be capable of doing that," -- Bell, on southpaw Tyler Lumsden

Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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