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Pirates sign Ben Grieve


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Pitt Tribune-Review

Bucs sign Grieve to minor-league contract

By Joe Rutter


Tuesday, January 25, 2005



General manager Dave Littlefield's goal at this stage of the Pirates' off-season has been to add a right-handed hitter to a lineup that scored the fourth-fewest runs in the National League last season.


So what in the name of Ben Grieve was Littlefield doing signing the 28-year-old left-handed hitter to a minor-league contract Monday afternoon?


"We'd still like to put a right-handed bat in the mix that we have," Littlefield said last night. "It's just that we need to get more productive hitters and add any players that can make us a better team."


Even if it meant bringing in another left-handed bat in Grieve, a journeyman outfielder who will receive a non-roster invitation to spring training.


An eight-year veteran, Grieve adds to the abundance of left-handed hitters at manager Lloyd McClendon's disposal, joining first baseman Daryle Ward, center fielder Tike Redman, right fielder Matt Lawton and infielder/outfielder Rob Mackowiak.


Grieve, the 1998 American League Rookie of the Year with the Oakland Athletics, hasn't played regularly since 2002, but he will be given a chance to win a corner outfield job.


"He could be a valuable asset for us," Littlefield said.


If Grieve makes the Pirates' roster, he'll receive a $500,000 salary with a chance to earn $50,000 in incentives. If he agrees to play at Class AAA Indianapolis, Grieve will make $12,000 a month. Grieve, though, has an escape clause written into his contract. He can declare free agency if he's not on the opening day roster. If he accepts an assignment to the minors, Grieve can declare free agency again if he's not promoted to Pittsburgh by June 15.


Grieve earned $700,000 last year when he was used primarily off the bench while spending the first five months with the Milwaukee Brewers and the sixth with the Chicago Cubs. In 123 games with both teams, Grieve accumulated just 250 at-bats while hitting .260 with eight homers and 35 RBI.


"I'm hoping that with some opportunity, he performs well and maybe can do more than that," Littlefield said when asked whether he views Grieve as a bench player. "He's still fairly young, so maybe there's some more there."


Grieve, son of former major leaguer Tom Grieve, was the second overall pick in the 1994 draft. Four seasons later, he was named the AL's top rookie after hitting .288 with 18 homers and 89 RBI. In 2000, Grieve had his best season, hitting 27 homers and driving in 104 runs.


The A's, however, traded him to Tampa Bay, where Grieve spent the next three seasons and failed to live up to expectations. In 2002, his last year as a full-time player, Grieve's production dipped to 19 homers and 64 RBI.


Grieve became a free agent after the 2003 season and signed with the Brewers. The Cubs, seeking bench help in their failed push for a wild-card berth, acquired Grieve on Aug. 31 for cash and a player to be named.


Asked if he could explain Grieve's decline in stock, Littlefield admittedly was perplexed.


"It's surprising considering how well he did early," he said. "You lower your expectations because of that. You hope maybe something clicks and he gets back on track."


Damn. The Pirates have the two best lefthanded 1B/corner OF that were available for nothing this offseason. Grieve and Darryl Ward. If only they had a competent manager.

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