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05/31/05 8:00 AM ET

Sweeney an All-Star to teammates

First baseman leads Royals in several offensive categories

KANSAS CITY -- No Royals are among the top vote-getters in the American League balloting, but there's no doubt about the team's top candidate for an All-Star berth.

"Mike Sweeney, no question about it," said Bob Schaefer, the Royals' interim manager. "He's an All-Star person and an All-Star player. I don't care if he hits .220, he's an All-Star."

Sweeney is not hitting .220. His average is a team-best .315, and he also leads the Royals in homers (9), doubles (14), RBIs (35) and slugging percentage (.545).

"I think there's only one choice -- No. 29. I think it's pretty clear," infielder Tony Graffanino said.

"Obviously, it's been harder for him in this lineup. I'm surprised he has as many RBIs as he has."

Sweeney was an All-Star selection from 2000 through 2003. He had one at-bat without a hit in each of the first three games, then sat out the 2003 game at Chicago with an injury.

Whether he plays or not, Sweeney revels in the All-Star hoopla.

"If I played well enough, I'd love it," he said. "I go out there every day to be the best I can. ... If I end up in Detroit in July, it'll be an honor."

The Royals have not had a player elected to the starting lineup since right fielder Jermaine Dye in 2000. Sweeney's string of appearances ended last year, when first baseman Ken Harvey was named to the squad.

In this year's tough grind, Sweeney has been a constant productive presence in the No. 3 hole as the first baseman and, occasionally, the designated hitter.

"Without him, we'd be nobody," pitcher Jose Lima said. "He's the guy who keeps us alive all year round."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.