KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – A simple second-to-first ground ball out could be a real challenge for broadcasters in Kansas City next year.

The Royals agreed Friday to one-year contracts with second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz.

Trying to rebound from a team-record 106-loss season, the Royals also agreed to an $8 million, two-year deal with pitcher Scott Elarton and finalized their agreement with backup catcher Paul Bako.

Mientkiewicz, a former Gold Glove first baseman best known for taking the ball from the final out of Boston’s World Series win in 2004, gets a $1.85 million deal with $700,000 in performance bonuses based on games and plate appearances.

Grudzielanek’s contract calls for a $4 million salary next season. If he has 500 plate appearances, he gets a $3 million player option for 2007.

The 35-year-old hit .294 with eight homers and 59 RBIs last season in helping St. Louis win the NL Central. He led NL second basemen in fielding percentage (.990) and double plays (108).

“Defensively, I can’t say enough good things about Grudzielanek,” general manager Allard Baird said. “Mientkiewicz, his defensive ability we feel very good about. We think he’s a winner.”

Earlier in a busy offseason, the Royals acquired starter Mark Redman from Pittsburgh and agreed to a contract with free-agent reliever Elmer Dessens.

“We’ve added two innings starters, we’ve added some team speed, we’ve improved our defense, we’ve increased our depth in the bullpen,” Baird said. “So I feel good about that. But we still have some things left to do. We’ll continue to be aggressive.”

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.

The 29-year-old Elarton gets $4 million annually. He was 11-9 with a 4.61 ERA last season with Cleveland, making a career-high 31 starts.

Bako, 33, 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.

Baird is looking for a corner outfielder but acknowledged that losing more than 99 games three of the last four years had not helped draw interest in the Royals.

“We’ve had to reach out,” he said. “I’ve hopped on planes and visited a lot of players, and I think that’s the key to this thing. Perception’s reality until you know what reality is. The direction of the club – once you sit down with them, they have a better feel for it. And I think that’s put us in the door with a lot more players than if we’d just sat back and said, “We’re offering you this much money to come to Kansas City.”‘

Mientkiewicz is in litigation over ownership of the World Series ball with the Red Sox, who filed suit last month asking a judge to let them keep it, then agreed Friday to dismiss it and have the case decided by Shyam Das, baseball’s arbitrator.

Das ruled in favor of the Royals on Friday in a grievance involving pitcher Mike MacDougal.

The players’ association claimed that when he was optioned to the minor leagues from May 11, 2004, to Sept. 7, 2004, he should have been on the disabled list and received credit for time in the major leagues. MacDougal’s contract that year called for him to be paid at a rate of $346,500 while in the majors and $240,810 while in the minors.

The decision leaves him with 2 years, 104 days of major league service, about five weeks short of eligibility for salary arbitration this offseason. MacDougal would have earned about $2 million if he had been eligible for arbitration, but now his salary will be set by the Royals, who are likely to pay him $400,000 or less.

AP-ES-12-16-05 1915EST


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