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03/29/10 6:39 PM ET
Grudzielanek likes chances of making team
Indians infielder trying to overcome hamstring tightness
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It appears the Indians have settled on at least one of their utility infield spots, but Mark Grudzielanek has to prove the hamstring tightness that held him out of Sunday's game is as minor as the Tribe thinks it is. Grudzielanek said his right hamstring already felt "70 percent better" Monday than it did Sunday and didn't think it would be an issue. "I would have played, if it were the regular season," he said of Sunday's scratch. "We did the right thing by giving me the day off, but I could have played." Grudzielanek said he has not been given an outright assurance that he will be on the Indians' Opening Day roster as a utility man at second and third base, but he said the Indians have "hinted at some things." What the Indians likely hinted at is Grudzielanek serving as the right-handed complement to young second baseman Luis Valbuena, who will probably get spelled on certain days when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound. Valbuena has had a rough spring camp, batting .188 with four strikeouts and five walks in 32 at-bats spread over 12 games. But Valbuena, who had a strong second half as a rookie last year, still projects as the regular at second base."Luis is a good player and a good kid," Grudzielanek said. "I'm sure he'll get the majority of the playing time off the bat, and we'll see what happens." The 39-year-old Grudzielanek, who played just 11 games in the Minor Leagues last year, arrived here on a Minor League contract and made no secret of the fact that he wanted to compete for the starting second base job. While he probably won't get that wish, he has impressed the Indians with his shape and skills, showing no ill-effects of the long layoff. He hasn't torn the cover off the ball, batting .233 in 30 at-bats over 11 games, but he's driven in five runs and shown range and agility in the field. And as a veteran of 14 seasons and a Gold Glove winner in 2006 with the Royals, Grudzielanek brings some needed experience to a young clubhouse. "I feel great," Grudzielanek said. "I definitely came in here in great shape. I wanted to prove I can make a run at a job, and I've shown that. And they're happy with what they see, I believe." Minor League invitee Luis Rodriguez and Anderson Hernandez, who was recently claimed off waivers, are also in the competition for a middle infield utility spot. The Indians are expected to carry an additional extra infielder, but that spot might go to Andy Marte, who is out of Minor League options and could spell Matt LaPorta at first and Jhonny Peralta at third. Manager Manny Acta is expected to announce the Indians' remaining roster decisions Thursday.
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Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.