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Tribe tabs Dellucci for left field

Tribe tabs Dellucci for left field

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CLEVELAND -- The Indians spoke the magic word when it came to negotiations with free-agent outfielder David Dellucci.

That word was "everyday."

With a promise of taking over the everyday duties in left field, Dellucci agreed to a three-year, $11.5 million contract with the Indians. The deal is contingent upon Dellucci passing a physical in Cleveland on Thursday and will likely be announced at that time, according to Dellucci's agent, Joe Longo.

"For David, the big thing is the role," Longo said. "Cleveland is definitely the one organization where they embraced him with open arms and said, 'You are going to have a role and help us win.'"

A team source would only confirm that the Indians and Dellucci have made progress on a deal. It is general manager Mark Shapiro's policy not to discuss such matters until they are completed.

The 33-year-old Dellucci, a left-handed batter, hit .292 with 13 homers and 39 RBIs in 132 games as a part-timer for the Phillies last season. He spent the previous two years with the Rangers, and his 10-year career has also included stints with the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Orioles.

For the Indians, left field had been occupied primarily by Jason Michaels in 2006. The Indians acquired him from the Phillies in January to fill the spot vacated by Coco Crisp, who was traded to the Red Sox. Michaels went on to bat .267 with nine homers and 55 RBIs in 123 games.

The Tribe, disappointed with Michaels' .252 average against right-handers and .326 on-base percentage from the No. 2 spot of the lineup, wasn't expected to give that everyday job to him again in '07. By the end of '06, he was sharing time with Shin-Soo Choo, acquired in a July trade with the Mariners.

Michaels is arbitration-eligible, so the club must offer him a contract by Dec. 12. If he remains with the team, he would likely get some of the starts in left against left-handed pitching. The Indians might use a platoon of Michaels and Choo in right, and Casey Blake should see significant time at the corner infield spots.

Dellucci, who has a career average of .263 with an on-base percentage of .369, has never hit lefties particularly well in his career. In 2006, he had limited exposure to them, batting .200 (4-for-20).

Nonetheless, the Indians, according to Longo, have promised Dellucci regular at-bats against left-handers.

"Obviously in his past, they generally didn't have him hit against a lot of lefties," Longo said. "But [manager] Eric [Wedge] told him they'd give him an opportunity to hit lefties. He did say that if the matchup is better, Jason Michaels would get some starts against lefties."

Generally a platoon player, Dellucci's career saw him win a World Series ring with the Diamondbacks in 2001. He had become an everyday player with the Rangers, but they shipped him to the Phillies just before the start of the '06 season for right-hander Robinson Tejeda and infielder Jake Blalock.

In 2005, Dellucci batted .251 with 29 homers and 65 RBIs. The trade to Philadelphia shocked him, Longo said.

"He told me he trained all last offseason thinking about hitting 30 home runs," Longo said. "When he got traded, that came to a screeching halt. It was frustrating for him to go from an everyday role to a platoon role. He really wanted to get back to that [everyday] situation."

Toward the end of the '06 season, the Phillies wanted to talk about a contract extension, but he decided to test the free-agent waters. Longo said the Indians were the only team offering an everyday job in the outfield. The Devil Rays had talked to him about a spot as a first baseman and designated hitter, but Dellucci hadn't played first base since high school.

"At this point," Longo said, "he didn't want to reinvent the wheel."

Dellucci has a reputation of being a clubhouse leader who is active in the community. Last winter, he raised more than $80,000 for Hurricane Katrina victims in his native state of Louisiana.

He hopes to make just as much of an impact on the Indians' lineup.

"He looked at himself in that lineup, and he loved it," Longo said. "He really felt good about things."

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

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