No California dreaming. It's official. Mike Sweeney's days with the Kansas City Royals are over. On Sunday, he agreed to a Minor League contract with the Oakland A's. Sweeney said he'd report to the A's Major League camp on Wednesday with pitchers and catchers and could be a replacement for Mike Piazza.
"They want me to play first base and DH and be a veteran presence for the younger guys like Eric Chavez," Sweeney said from his San Diego home. "I'm excited about the opportunity and it's close to home." Sweeney had spent his entire 17-year pro career in the Royals organization, including 13 years in the Majors. He went from backup catcher to slugging first baseman to designated hitter and team captain. Back and knee injuries cut into his playing time in the last five years. Last season, he was limited to 74 games, batting .260 with seven homers and 38 RBIs. His back was fine but his right knee required surgery.
His future with the Royals was blocked as young Billy Butler blossomed as a big league hitter in Sweeney's DH spot and first base became crowded with candidates. Sweeney gives the A's, whose lineup has been leaning to the left side, a boost of right-handed power. Their DH spot is manned by left-handed batter Jack Cust, who hammered 26 homers last year. Another lefty, top prospect Daric Barton, is expected to take over first base this season. He batted .347 in 18 games last September. Sweeney's representatives had also talked with Royals general manager Dayton Moore and other clubs, including the Yankees, Rangers, Twins and Giants.
"Dayton and his staff handled it well," Sweeney said. "There was no room for me with the Royals and it was time to move on," Sweeney said.