LOS ANGELES (AP) – Bill Mueller and the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed Wednesday to a two-year contract worth about $9.5 million, reuniting the former AL batting champion with Grady Little and Ned Colletti.

Mueller, a switch-hitting third baseman, batted .295 with 10 homers and 62 RBIs in 150 games with Boston last season. He hit .338 with runners in scoring position and had a major league-leading 10 hits with the bases loaded, going 10-of-19 in such situations.

Colletti, hired as the Dodgers’ general manager last month, said he’s been speaking with Mueller’s agent, Ron Shapiro, for weeks. Colletti was the assistant GM for the San Francisco Giants when Mueller played there from 1996-00.

“Little by little, it became clear he had an interest in being here,” Colletti said on a conference call. “When we hired Grady, the interest probably increased a little bit. We’re thrilled he’s here. He’s a character guy who’s a winner.”

Mueller joined the Red Sox in 2003 and led the AL in batting with a .326 average in 146 games. He hit 19 homers, drove in 85 runs and had 283 total bases that season – all career bests. Boston’s manager that year was Little, hired to manage the Dodgers last week.

“When I mentioned his name, Grady couldn’t say yes fast enough,” Colletti said.

The 34-year-old Mueller hit .283 with 12 homers and 57 RBIs in 110 games in 2004, when Boston won its first World Series championship in 86 years. He went 6-of-14 to help the Red Sox sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the Series.

“I’ve known both Ned Colletti and Grady Little for years, and I respect them both immensely and thank them for this opportunity,” Mueller said in a statement. “I’m really excited about the direction the Dodgers are headed and look forward to some great seasons ahead of us here in Los Angeles.”

Mueller, a member of the Chicago Cubs in 2001 and 2002, has played in 1,184 major league games with a .292 batting average, 82 homers and 478 RBIs.

The Dodgers will enter next season with a rebuilt left side of the infield – they agreed last week to a $39 million, three-year contract with shortstop Rafael Furcal.

All-Star shortstop Cesar Izturis had reconstructive surgery on his throwing elbow late last season and isn’t expected to be available until July at the earliest.

Third base was an area of need. Jose Valentin began last season as the team’s third baseman, but was sidelined from May 4 to July 31 due to torn ligaments in his right knee. He wound up hitting .170 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 56 games, then signed with the New York Mets earlier this month.

Mueller will speak with local reporters today on a conference call. He chose the Dodgers over the Pittsburgh Pirates, who reportedly offered him a three-year contract.

Meanwhile, Colletti said he’d made an offer to Nomar Garciaparra, another former AL batting champion while playing for the Red Sox.

“I’d like to talk to him before I comment on that,” Colletti said when asked about the possibility of Garciaparra playing the outfield. “He has been an infielder most of his career. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t make the switch to left field.”

The Red Sox traded Garciaparra to the Cubs in July 2004.

Colletti has said repeatedly the team needs outfield help. That need was increased with Tuesday’s trade of Milton Bradley and infielder Antonio Perez to Oakland for 23-year-old outfielder Andre Ethier, the Texas League player of the year.

Ethier is expected to open next season at Triple-A.


AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

AP-ES-12-14-05 2103EST

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