Gload accepts role, but eyes at-bats

Gload accepts role, but eyes more at-bats

PHOENIX -- One of manager Buddy Bell's missions this season is to find more at-bats for Ross Gload.

Gload hit .327 in 77 games last season and .321 in 104 games in 2004 with the White Sox. Gload, whom the Royals acquired in a Dec. 16 trade for left-hander Andrew Sisco, owns a .308 average in three seasons in the American League, but that consists of only 494 at-bats.

It had to be difficult to keep a .327 hitter on the bench in 2006.

"Not when you've got good players ahead of you," Gload said. "You want your starters to do good and keep your bench guys fresh and healthy. That was my job there, so that's what I did."

Gload has had ample at-bats in Spring Training, hitting .459 with a .757 slugging percentage in 14 games, while playing first base and the outfield. Gload knows, however, it is easier to get playing time for the non-regulars in March than once the season starts. Gload had a meager five at-bats last April and only 23 the first two months

"Plenty of times," Gload said when asked if he has had to sit a week without playing. "You have a lot of days off early. Once the season gets going, things work their way out."

Once Gload's playing time increased last season so did his batting average - hitting .353 after May 31. Bell would like to make sure Gload does not sit for lengthy stretches this year.

"[Bell] said he was going to try to get me in," Gload said. "I'm sure I'm going to back up at a lot of different positions if things fall into place. If everyone stays healthy and plays 162 games, I probably won't play that much at all. Guys have got to stay healthy. It takes 25 guys to win games. He'll pick spots to get me in there."

Gload, who turns 31 on April 5, has accepted the utility role.

"If it keeps me in the big leagues, six, seven, eight years, I'll be more than happy," he said. "I'm glad I have a uniform. I've been told basically my whole career until I got here that I wasn't going to get here. Hopefully now I can do it here, accept the role and do it well because someone has got to be the 25th guy on the roster."

Gload, who was a 13th-round pick of the Marlins in 1997, called the trade to the Royals "a shock."

"No one asks you if you wanted to get traded," Gload said. "But once I talked to Buddy and Dayton [Moore, general manger], they said it would be a good thing, so I've turned the corner and got prepared to come here. One day you're with the White Sox and the next day you're with the Royals. I've had a whole offseason to let it sink in. Once I decided Kansas City is going to be where I was, I focused my attention here."

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Gload, who is from East Hampton, N.Y., was a Met for a few days. The Rockies included him in a four-player Jan. 22, 2002, deal, but on Jan. 26, the Rockies got Gload back for cash.

"I got a lot of calls from friends and family saying they were pretty excited I was going to be with the Mets," Gload said. "I knew right away they didn't want me and they weren't going to keep me and I was going to be on my way to somewhere else pretty soon. [The Rockies] told me they were going to try to work something out as soon as they got a roster spot.

"They had taken me off the roster, designated me for assignment. I went right back there. I still say I played for the Mets for a day or two, but it never really materialized."

Gload's best position is first base, which he played in the Minors, but he has played 71 games in the outfield in the Majors.

"I've never become an outfielder until I got to the Majors in 2000," Gload said. "I'm comfortable at first base. I'm getting comfortable as I can be in the outfield. I've played center field two or three games in the big leagues, but I don't know if I'd put me out there. I'm probably a little slower. I'm probably better off in left or right."

If the Royals need a left-handed bat off the bench, Gload hit .350 as a pinch-hitter.

"It is hard, but you've got to know what your job is," Gload said of pinch-hitting. "If you can't do it, they'll get someone who is better than you. You're just always prepared. In the fifth inning you're stretching. No one sees you, but you're in the cages hitting off the tee, so you're ready. Against a closer or setup [guy] in the eighth or ninth inning, you may only get one swing that day and you may not get another swing for three or four days, so you better make sure that it is a good one.

"I never believed the mental side until later on in my career. You've got to be prepared. You've got to know who is coming in. You've got to know what he throws, what his best pitch is, how he has been throwing. You've just got to be ready for anything."

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