Kansas City, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals claimed infielder Tug Hulett off waivers from the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.
The Royals designated left-handed pitcher Neal Musser, who made one relief appearance last year for the Royals, for assignment to make room for Hulett on the 40-man roster. Hulett was expected to arrive today at the Royals camp and will likely start the season at Class AAA Omaha.
“Tug has two (minor league) options remaining, which is naturally part of the appeal and attraction,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “It gives us more depth in the interior part of the diamond in Omaha and potentially somebody we can bring up to play second, fill in at short on a limited basics or third base. He gives us some bat potential from the left side.”
Moore said that based on scouting judgments, the Royals were surprised that Hulett was available.
“Historically, he’s played very well in the minor leagues and earned his opportunities every step of the way,” Moore said. “You’re always looking to add talent to your organization, and that’s what we felt like we’ve done. In 2009, he gives us options.”
Hulett spent most of 2008 with Class AAA Tacoma, batting batted .298 with 22 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs and 47 RBIs in 91 games. He also appeared in 30 games with the Mariners, batting .224 with one homer and two RBIs.
“He had limited playing time last year in the major leagues, but had some spurts where he showed a lot of promise,” Moore said. “He’s a tremendous makeup type player. He knows how to play and comes from a great baseball family. We’re excited to get him.”
He is the son of former Major League infielder Tim Hulett, who played 12 seasons for the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals.
Hulett, who turns 26 on Feb. 28, was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 14th round of the 2004 draft. Since then he has stolen 15 or more bases four times at the minor league level and has a .394 career on-base percentage in the minors.
Hulett’s primary position is second base, although he has also played short and third. The Royals have a vacancy at second base with Willie Bloomquist, Alberto Callaspo and Mark Teahen competing for the job.
“I wouldn’t count him out,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said of Hulett starting at second. “But it’s certainly not the priority for me with what we have and we’re looking at there. We’ll move him around.”
Callaspo, who was the only missing player Wednesday, arrived from Venezuela and practiced Thursday.
Outfielder Jose Guillen, who led the Royals with 20 home runs and 97 RBIs last season, has been hampered by ingrown nail on his big right toe.
“The nail got cut wrong and it is growing into areas it is not supposed to grow into. It’s very painful for him and very tender,” Hillman said, adding that the team’s trainers are trying prevent an infection. “I’m hoping in the next two to three days he’ll be moving a lot better than he has been.”