Melhuse agrees to 1-year deal with A’s

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – The Oakland Athletics and backup catcher Adam Melhuse agreed to an $815,000, one-year contract on Friday.

The 34-year-old Melhuse, a switch-hitter, has had a limited role the past two seasons. He batted .219 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 49 games for the AL West champions in 2006 and expressed frustration after the season that fired manager Ken Macha didn’t communicate enough with him.

Melhuse, the backup to Jason Kendall, is eager to play for new skipper Bob Geren, promoted from bench coach in November to replace Macha. Melhuse’s deal includes the chance to earn an additional $40,000 based on plate appearances – $25,000 for 140 plate appearances and another $15,000 for 165.

“I haven’t gotten my hopes up too high. I don’t anticipate splitting time with Kendall,” Melhuse said in a phone interview from San Luis Obispo. “I still know my position is the same, for the most part, as last year. At least I have a manager who thinks a little bit of me and will acknowledge that I’m there. I’m just preparing to be informed a little bit better. Hopefully Bob will find a time to use me.”

Melhuse, who played in 39 games in 2005, has a 90-game errorless streak dating to June 5, 2004. He has had a productive offseason and is in shape to start spring training, he said. Oakland’s pitchers and catchers report to the team’s Phoenix facility on Feb. 15.

Melhuse will miss Barry Zito, Frank Thomas and Jay Payton – the three latest players to leave the small-market franchise.

Zito, a left-hander and former AL Cy Young Award winner, signed a $126 million, seven-year contract last week with the San Francisco Giants, so he won’t be far away.

“I’m bummed to see Zito go but we were all bracing ourselves for that to happen,” Melhuse said. “I’m ecstatic for the deal he got. I’m anxious to watch him.”

AP-ES-01-05-07 1943EST

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