Kansas City, Mo. A simple second-to-first ground ball out could be a real challenge for broadcasters in Kansas City next year.
The Royals announced Friday they had signed one-year contracts with two free agents who could help shore up their sagging infield defense - second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz.
Trying to rebound from a team-record 106-loss season, the Royals also agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal with pitcher Scott Elarton and finalized their agreement with backup catcher Paul Bako.
Mientkiewicz, a former Gold Glove first baseman best known for taking the ball from the final out of Boston's World Series win in 2004, gets a $1.85 million deal with $700,000 in performance bonuses based on games and plate appearances.
Grudzielanek's contract calls for a $4 million salary next season and gives him a $3 million player option for 2007. Grudzielanek, 35, batted .294 with eight home runs and 59 RBIs last season in helping St. Louis win the NL Central. He led all NL second basemen in fielding percentage (.990) and double plays (108). Mientkiewicz, who turns 31 in June, is a career .268 hitter with 55 homers and 305 RBIs. Bothered by a hamstring injury, he hit .240 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs in 275 at-bats for the Mets last season.
Elarton, 29, gets $4 million each of the two seasons. He was 11-9 with a 4.61 earned-run average last season with Cleveland, making a career-high 31 starts.
Mientkiewicz and the Red Sox are going to arbitration to decide who owns the ball from the final out of Boston's 2004 World Series victory.
The Red Sox agreed to dismiss the lawsuit they filed last month asking for the Suffolk Superior Court in Massachusetts to order that the ball be returned to the team.