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Mientkiewicz, Grudzielanek, Elarton join Royals


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KANSAS CITY, Mo. ? (AP) ? Free-agent infielders Doug Mientkiewicz and Mark Grudzielanek agreed Friday to one-year contracts with the Kansas City Royals, who also gave a

two-year deal with pitcher Scott Elarton and finalized their agreement with backup catcher Paul Bako.


Mientkiewicz is the former Gold Glove first baseman best known for taking the ball from the final out of Boston's World Series win in 2004. The Red Sox filed suit last month, asking a judge to let the team keep the infamous ball, whose ownership has been in dispute since pitcher Keith Foulke flipped it to Mientkiewicz for the out that gave Boston its first World Series since 1918.


After he was traded to the New York Mets in January, he loaned the ball to the Red Sox for one year.


"The Red Sox continue to assert that their former employee, Mientkiewicz, obtained the baseball through the course of his employment, that he acquired no ownership interest and that the Red Sox are the rightful owners of the baseball,'' the team stated in its suit.


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.


Grudzielanek, a 35-year-old second baseman, 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).


Elarton was 11-9 with a 4.61 ERA last season with Cleveland, making a career-high 31 starts.


Bako played in 13 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year before a knee injury May 26 ended his season. He gets a $700,000, one-year contract.

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