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05/12/09 10:15 PM ET

Brewers ink Catalanotto to Minors deal

Veteran eventually could find spot as lefty bat off bench

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers signed utilityman Frank Catalanotto to a Minor League contract on Tuesday, adding a versatile veteran -- and another left-handed bat -- for organizational depth.

But don't give him a spot on the Brewers' bench just yet.

"I told him, 'You still have to perform,'" said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who spoke with Catalanotto on Monday. "There are no promises here."

Catalanotto, 35, who was released by the Rangers last month, will report to the Brewers' year-round baseball facility in Phoenix for five to seven days of workouts before he's assigned to Triple-A Nashville or Double-A Huntsville. Melvin said the choice would be based on those affiliates' upcoming schedules, to avoid sending Catalanotto into a buzz saw of left-handed pitchers.

It's plausible that he eventually could replace Brad Nelson on the Brewers' bench if Nelson doesn't hit a hot streak. Nelson, who made his first Opening Day roster by hitting .354 in Spring Training, is 0-for-21 in the regular season. He is 0-for-14 as a pinch-hitter, including a sixth-inning strikeout on Tuesday.

The Brewers' other reserve outfielder has not fared significantly better. Chris Duffy was hitting .107 (3-for-28) entering Tuesday's game, including 1-for-7 as a pinch-hitter, but he is an excellent defensive player and has particular value as Milwaukee's backup center fielder.

Melvin downplayed the link between Catalanotto and Nelson.

"Two weeks could change a lot of things," Melvin said.

Catalanotto is a career .289 hitter in the pinch (56-for-194), including 7-for-20 (.350) last season with Texas. Overall, he is a career .292 hitter in 12 seasons with three American League teams while playing both corner outfield positions, plus first, second and third base.

He went 3-for-10 with a run scored for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, but he was released by the Rangers at the end of Spring Training when the team decided to add Andruw Jones to the roster. Since then, Catalanotto has been throwing and hitting at a high school near his Long Island, N.Y., home.

"He's not guaranteed to get to the big leagues," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "We signed him to see if we have an option for strengthening our bench."

Texas swallowed Catalanotto's $6 million salary for this season, so the Brewers would only owe him a prorated portion of the Major League minimum salary for time he spends in the big leagues.

He has history with Melvin, who was Texas' GM in November 1999 when Catalanotto was traded along with Francisco Cordero, Gabe Kapler, Justin Thompson and Bill Hasselman in a blockbuster deal that sent Juan Gonzalez to Detroit. Melvin since has brought Cordero, Kapler and Thompson in for separate stints with the Brewers.

Now, Catalanotto joins the list.

"He's a very aggressive player," Melvin said. "He'll run better than you would think. He wouldn't steal bases, but he was a good baserunner. He was a big doubles guy, not a home run. He won't strike out a lot, won't walk a lot -- a line drive-type hitter."

The Brewers had a similar player in Spring Training in Mike Lamb, but Lamb opted for free agency when he was told he wouldn't make the big league roster. Lamb later settled for a Minor League deal with the Mets.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.