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 services.
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.''