KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – The Kansas City Royals are attempting to sign Doug Mientkiewicz, the Gold Glove first baseman best known for taking the ball from the final out of Boston’s World Series win in 2004.

“We definitely have an interest and we are pursuing it,” Kansas City general manager Allard Baird said Tuesday. “I do not get the feeling that anything is imminent.”

Mientkiewicz, who turns 31 in June, is a career .268 hitter with 55 home runs and 305 RBIs. A good contact hitter and a top defensive first baseman, he has only 25 errors in 6,377 chances.

He spent last year with the New York Mets. Slowed by a hamstring injury, he hit .240 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs in 275 at-bats. His best year was 2001 with Minnesota, when he hit .306 with 15 homers and 74 at-bats and won a Gold Glove. In 2003, he hit .300 with 11 home runs and 65 RBIs.

Mientkiewicz would bring stability to one of the many positions where the Royals were lacking in consistency last season while losing a franchise-record 106 games. He could also provide better defense at first than the Royals have had for many seasons.

All-Star Mike Sweeney, one of several players the Royals put at first base last year, would not become a fulltime designated hitter.

“Mike would still get time in the field. We are not thinking of doing anything else,” Baird said.

The Red Sox filed suit last month, asking a judge to let the team keep the infamous ball, whose ownership has been in dispute since pitcher Keith Foulke flipped it to Mientkiewicz for the out that gave Boston its first World Series since 1918.

After he was traded to the New York Mets in January, he loaned the ball to the Red Sox for one year. He would get it back “unless the ultimate issue of ownership has been otherwise resolved,” the agreement said.

“The Red Sox continue to assert that their former employee, Mientkiewicz, obtained the baseball through the course of his employment, that he acquired no ownership interest and that the Red Sox are the rightful owners of the baseball,” the team stated in its suit.

The Royals are have a preliminary agreement on a $700,000, one-year contract with free-agent catcher Paul Bako, a career .239 hitter who would be a backup to John Buck. He played 13 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year and underwent surgery on June 24 to repair his anterior cruciate ligament.

“I’d still like to find a starter and improve the outfield situation as well,” Baird said.

AP-ES-12-13-05 1406EST

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