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Dodgers' deal with Loretta finally official

December 10, 2008 |  3:31 pm

Rafael Furcal tags out the Houston Astros' Mark Loretta in a 2007 file photo.

The Dodgers just announced the signing of infielder Mark Loretta, who passed his physical on Tuesday, the last step before the $1.4-million contract became official. Here's the Dodgers' news release:

LOS ANGELES –- The National League West Division Champion Los Angeles Dodgers today agreed to terms with two-time All-Star infielder Mark Loretta on a one-year contract.  General Manager Ned Colletti made the announcement.

“Any time we can add a player with as much versatility and character as Mark has, it’s going to tremendously help the team on the field and in the clubhouse, “Colletti said.  “We look forward to his bat, glove, and leadership whether he is starting or coming off the bench.”

Loretta hit .280 with four homers and 38 RBI last year in 101 games with the Houston Astros. The 2004 and 2006 National League All-Star batted .330 (32-for-97) vs. left-handed pitching in 2008 and hit .367 (11-for-30) as a

pinch-hitter, which ranked fourth in the Major Leagues. Loretta led all big leaguers with a .633 slugging percentage off the bench and hit .357 (10-for-28) with runners in scoring position and two out.

The 37-year-old Loretta is known for his versatility and last season started games at all four infield positions, including two at first base, 41 at second base, four at shortstop, and 12 at third base.

Over the course of 14 seasons with the Brewers (1995-2002), Astros (2002, 2007-08), Padres (2003-05), and Red Sox (2006), Loretta has posted a .297 average with 1,671 hits, 76 homers, 301 doubles, 22 triples, and 604 RBI in 1,619 games. Since 1997, Loretta has batted at least .280 or better over 12 consecutive seasons.

The Santa Monica native graduated high school from St. Francis in La Canada and was selected in the seventh round of the June 1993 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers after winning the Big 10 Conference MVP at Northwestern. He owns a career average of .306 (53-for-173) at Dodger Stadium.   

Loretta’s best season came in 2004, when he finished ninth in the NL MVP balloting after hitting .335 (3rd, NL) with 208 hits (2nd, NL), 47 doubles (3rd, NL), 108 runs scored, and established career-highs of 16 homers and 76 RBI. That season he became an All-Star for the first time and won the NL Silver Slugger Award for second baseman.

In his lone season in Boston (2006), he became the first Red Sox second baseman to be to start the All-Star Game since Felix Mantilla in 1965 and surpassed Bobby Doerr’s (.993, 1948) club single-season record for fielding percentage by a second baseman, posting a .994 mark. In his career, Loretta has a .993 fielding percentage in 197 games at first base, a .989 career fielding percentage in 826 games at second base, a .980 percentage at shortstop in 405 contests, and a .971 mark over 211 games at the hot corner.

Loretta owns a lifetime batting average of .312 with runners in scoring position, which is 12th in Major League Baseball since 1995. His .242 average with two strikes ranks ninth in baseball among active players with at least 750 career plate appearances.

-- Bill Shaikin

Photo: Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal tags out the Houston Astros' Mark Loretta in a 2007 file photo. Credit: : Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times