Indians Sign Mark Grudzielanek
Grudzielanek is now the leader in the clubhouse for the Indians utility gig opening, though he is hardly a sure thing since he only managed to play in 11 games last season in the Minnesota Twins minor league system. The Twins signed him to a minor league contract on July 19th and he played 11 games between their rookie level Gulf Coast League team and Double-A team before releasing him on August 10th.
Grudzielanek suffered an ankle injury in August 2008 which ended his season prematurely, but he reportedly was fine going into the 2009 season and did not sign a deal with anyone last offseason because he did not get a deal he liked. He made $4.5 million in 2008 with Kansas City and was a Type-B free agent last year, so it appears teams were not willing to offer him much given his free agent status, age, and questionable health.
The Indians will likely still sign another utility infielder option or two to compete with Grudzielanek, Niuman Romero, Luis Rodriguez, and Brian Buscher this spring.
Grudzielanek, 39, owns a career Major League batting average of .290 (2010-6942) with 391 doubles, 36 triples, 90 home runs and 629 RBI in 1772 games with five teams over 14 seasons from 1995-2008. He owns a career on-base % of .332 with 936 runs scored and 131 stolen bases. He most recently appeared with the Kansas City Royals in 2008 where he hit .299 (99-331) with 24 2B, 3HR & 24 RBI in 86 games, including a mark of .395 (34-86) against left-handed pitchers (2nd-highest mark in MLB).
The El Paso, Texas native was a National League All-Star with the Montreal Expos in 1996, hitting .306 and finishing 4th in the NL with 201 hits. He led the National League and tied the MLB record for a shortstop with 54 doubles in 1997 and won the Rawlings Gold Glove Award at second base for the Royals as recently as 2006. In his career he has appeared in 1108 games at second base, 626 games at shortstop and 31 games at third base and owns a career .297 (515-1733) against left-handed pitching. He hit .294 or better over each of his last six Major League seasons from 2003-08 and his .326 average with the LA Dodgers in 1999 ranked 6th in the National League.