A little recruiting by veterans Roy Oswalt and Brad Ausmus helped the Houston Astros land infielder Mark Loretta, who signed a one-year deal with the team Thursday night.
"Roy called [club owner] Drayton McLane and said, 'We need this guy,'" Loretta's agent, Bob Garber, who also represents Oswalt, told Astros.com. "That's how the ball started rolling. Drayton said, 'OK, I'll call your agent tomorrow.'"
Primarily a second baseman during his career, Loretta played for the Astros for part of the 2002 season. Though Houston is set at that position with Craig Biggio, who is closing in on 3,000 hits, Loretta can also play third base, shortstop and first base.
"I don't think there's any controversy there," Loretta said. "Craig is the second baseman. There was no guarantee of me playing any one position on an everyday basis. It'll be a matter of [manager] Phil [Garner] finding a way to mix me in there, to give guys days off. You never can have too many good players on a team. Everybody is playing to win."
Loretta, who started at second base for the 2006 American League All-Star team as a member of the Boston Red Sox, is a career .299 hitter and left an impression on McLane during his first stint with the club.
Astros general manager Tim Purpura jumped at the chance to sign Loretta.
"This was a unique opportunity to acquire a high-caliber offensive and defensive player late in the free-agent market," Purpura said. "Mark is a very versatile player and a two-time All-Star who we did not expect to be available, and we are excited about adding a player of his ability to our roster. He will play regularly at all infield positions, and his contribution will definitely make us a stronger team in 2007."
Rays finally bring Harris into fold: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have tried to acquire infielder Brendan Harris before. This year, they finally landed him.
Harris has played for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals over the past three years and can play second, third and short. He was acquired from the Reds in a trade this week.
"Brendan is a guy we've had our eye on for a while," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman told the St. Petersburg Times. "We tried to acquire him last Spring Training, and we are excited to add him to our organization today."
The Rays hope Harris, 26, can fill in for them at a variety of positions.
"We feel he can be an offensive type of utility infielder," Friedman said, "and he is someone we feel comfortable with playing more in the event of injuries."
Friday is a big day for Carroll: On Friday, Colorado Rockies infielder Jamey Carroll will have his high school uniform retired. Carroll will be able to celebrate in style after signing a two-year contract with a club option for a third year on Wednesday.
Playing primarily second base this past season, Carroll hit .300 and played outstanding defense. With the re-signing of Kaz Matsui this offseason, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle plans to use Carroll at second, short and third as well as in the outfield this year. Carroll has no problem with that plan.
"Whatever is best for the team," the 32-year-old utilityman told the Denver Post. "It feels good to know they liked what I did."
Carroll will be in Newburgh, Ind., on Friday, when his No. 21 jersey will be retired at Newcastle High. However, instead of having his high school uniform framed, Carroll has chosen to frame Colorado's road jersey in honor of his late mother Patty. Her favorite color was purple, which is prominently featured on the road jersey.
"It's a statement for her," Carroll said.
Foulke joins Indians: Keith Foulke has signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians. The deal became official when the veteran reliever passed his physical earlier this week.
"All is well and good," Foulke's agent, Dan Horwits, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer when asked if his client passed the physical.
Foulke, who is expected to compete for the closer job in Spring Training, is anxious to put on his new uniform.
"Keith is very excited about coming to Cleveland," said Horwits. "They pursued him very aggressively."
Huff looks forward to new environs: Infielder Aubrey Huff is eager to get started with his new team, the Baltimore Orioles.
"It's a great park, great fans," Huff told the Baltimore Sun. "Every time I've come here, the fans have been great. Playing the Devil Rays on a Monday night and you have 30,000 people here. ... Honestly, with the history Baltimore has, it's something that I've never been a part of."
Huff also hopes to be a part of a winner.
"I think on paper, we have a great chance to be competitive in this division," said the .285 lifetime hitter, who's smacked 141 home runs over his seven-year big-league career. "One through nine, the balance is there. It's honestly one of the best lineups I've ever been a part of."
Team vice president Jim Duquette believes Huff's bat will help the Orioles offense.
"We certainly feel a lot better about the offense today than we did a week ago," Duquette said. "When you stick him in the lineup, it spreads out the rest of the lineup. So I think one through nine, we have balance."
Paulino stays hungry: Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino may appear to have the starting catcher job wrapped up, but he still plans to approach things as though he has something to prove.
"Nothing is for sure in baseball," Paulino told MLB.com. "I know that I have to prepare myself for next year and show them in Spring Training that I can be the everyday catcher for the next four or more years. It makes me feel proud of myself to know that if I work hard next year, I can do even better."
Though he hit 19 home runs over 120 Minor League games in 2005, Paulino had only six long balls for the Pirates last year, when he batted primarily in the No. 8 hole. That's something he thinks will change in time.
"I think the power is going to come," Paulino said. "But in the position I was hitting all year, it was better for me to make contact and put the ball in play."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.