Stairs competing for spot on Padres’ bench
Matt Stairs pushed himself hard during his offseason
conditioning program just in case any teams were interested in his
At the same time, however, the veteran pinch-hitter put the
thought in the back of his mind that he might have to retire.
But sometime after he secured a job as a hitting coach for the
University of Maine, Stairs received an invitation to spring
training from the San Diego Padres. Stairs, who signed a minor
league deal in January after losing 32 pounds this offseason,
officially checked into spring training on Saturday.
Stairs hit .194 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 103 at-bats
for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. He’s expected to compete for
a role on the Padres’ bench.
“The market was pretty slow and I think instead of it being a
big surprise if I didn’t get an offer I set my mind to where maybe
retirement is time,” Stairs said. “I still wanted to play. I
still had the desire.
“Then I got a phone call that San Diego had an offer. I jumped
all over it and I’m excited and we’ll see what happens.”
Stairs, who began his career with the Montreal Expos in 1992 and
is playing for his 12th team, weighs 198 pounds. He finished the
2009 season with the NL champion Phillies weighing 230 pounds.
Stairs attributed the weight loss to a diet and playing for two
senior league hockey teams in Bangor, Maine. He also was a coach
for the varsity hockey team at John Baptist Memorial High School in
Bangor this winter.
“I feel great right now,” Stairs said. “We’ll see how it
goes. If I can’t hit any home runs, I’ll start throwing some
burgers in me.”
Manager Bud Black is happy to have Stairs on board. The veteran
hitter, who turns 42 next Saturday, would give the Padres their
best pinch-hitting threat in several seasons if he were to make the
team. Stairs, who has 259 career home runs, is a .268 hitter with
17 homers in 325 career pinch-hit at-bats.
“He’s a proven guy who knows that role,” Black said. “That’s
a big plus.”