Indians sign Grudzielanek

Indians sign Grudzielanek

CLEVELAND -- The Indians have added a veteran option to their infield picture by signing Mark Grudzielanek to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training camp.

The 39-year-old Grudzielanek will compete for the middle infield utility role left behind by Jamey Carroll. To win the job, Grudzielanek will have to shake off some rust after logging just 11 games at the Minor League level in 2009.

Grudzielanek played with five teams over 14 seasons from 1995-2008, including the 2006-08 seasons with the Royals. He owns a career average of .290 with 391 doubles, 36 triples, 90 homers and 629 RBIs in 1,772 games. Grudzielanek was an NL All-Star with the Expos in 1996 and an AL Gold Glove winner at second base with the Royals in '06.

But after his 2008 season with Kansas City was cut short by an ankle injury suffered in early August, when he was batting .299 with 24 doubles, three homers, 24 RBIs and a .743 OPS, Grudzielanek wasn't able to land a guaranteed job with a contender last winter, so he opted to sit. He ended up signing a Minor League deal with the Twins midseason, but he was released by the club before making it back to the big leagues.

The Indians, who had Grudzielanek complete a physical at their Goodyear, Ariz., complex last week, hope he'll have a longer tenure here.

"He'll come into camp and compete for a spot on the team," assistant general manager Chris Antonetti said. "If he's competing for a utility job, he's going to have to have versatility to play other spots."

The bulk of Grudzielanek's career appearances have come at second base (1,108 games), though he's also logged significant time at shortstop (626) and a little at third (31).

For now, the Indians are planning to stick with youngster Luis Valbuena as the regular at second base. But the Indians still expect to spell Valbuena against left-handed pitching, which means the middle-infield utility player will most likely be a right-handed hitter.

The veteran Grudzielanek fits that bill, and, at the moment, his competitors for the utility job are prospect Jason Donald and non-roster invitee Luis Rodriguez.

Grudzielanek is the ninth player the Indians have signed to a Minor League deal with a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Last week, the club signed outfielders Austin Kearns and Shelley Duncan. The club has also signed infielders Brian Buscher and Rodriguez and pitchers Mike Gosling, Jason Grilli, Anthony Reyes and Saul Rivera.

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