Nats comfortable leaning on Stairs in a pinch

Nats comfortable leaning on Stairs in a pinch

Nats comfortable leaning on Stairs in a pinch
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said there is a "good chance" first baseman/outfielder Matt Stairs will be on the 25-man roster to start the 2011 season.

Stairs, who signed a Minor League contract with Washington this past offseason, was 5-for-16 [.313] with three RBIs entering Sunday's action against the Tigers. Most of his playing time has come off the bench.

Stairs also is expected to join Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston Jr. as a team leader on and off the field.

"We brought Matt in here because of what he has done in the past, and we see no indication that he can't do that," Riggleman said. "He has a real good chance of being on the club."

Stairs has been an excellent pinch-hitter over the years. Serving in that role during his career, Stairs has hit .263 with 23 home runs and 66 RBIs.

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His most famous pinch-hit came in Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series, when he hit a two-run homer to lift the Phillies to a 7-5 victory over the Dodgers.

This spring, Stairs has purposely come off the bench to prepare for the season. With less than two weeks to go, Stairs most likely will get more at-bats at Minor League camp.

"When I pinch hit, I have tremendous concentration for one at-bat," Stairs said recently. "I enjoy playing -- that's for sure, but I enjoy getting up for the mindset of pinch-hitting late in the game."