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07/19/09 9:04 PM ET

Twins sign Grudzielanek to Minors deal

Veteran second baseman will first report to Fort Myers

ARLINGTON -- The Twins brought Alexi Casilla up after the All-Star break to give him another chance to secure the club's second base position.

And the club is still looking for Casilla, who has been demoted to Triple-A Rochester twice this season, to do just that.

But on Sunday, the Twins tried to give themselves a little insurance for their middle infield by signing veteran second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to a Minor League contract.

Grudzielanek, 39, is expected to report to the Twins' Gulf Coast League squad in Fort Myers, Fla., and will work out for the club before he'll be assigned to one of their Minor League affiliates.

"Our hope is that Casilla takes the second base job and runs with it," Twins general manager Bill Smith said. "But if not, here is a guy that's a proven Major League veteran."

The signing is not without some uncertainty, as Grudzielanek -- who spent 14 seasons in the Majors --has not played at all this season. He batted .299 with three homers and 24 RBIs in 86 games with the Royals in 2008, but missed the final two months of the season due to a sprained right ankle.

Grudzielanek became a free agent at the end of the '08 season after making $4.5 million with Kansas City last year. But he did not sign with a team until now.

"He hasn't really played, so it's going to be awhile before you know what he can do," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's a good player, always has been."

Over his 14 Major League seasons, Grudzielanek has tallied 2,010 career hits and a .290 career batting average. He's also posted a .294 average or better every year since 2003 and won a Gold Glove at second base with the Royals in 2006.

As for the notion that the club might have signed Grudzielanek just to motivate Casilla, Gardenhire scoffed.

"If Alexi is worried about that, he's probably in the wrong place," Gardenhire said. "Alexi needs to worry about Alexi, and I think that's what he's doing. You can't worry about stuff like that. Who knows how long [Grudzielanek] is going to have play [to get ready] -- a month? He hasn't played. He hasn't had a Spring Training."

Casilla didn't seem to be bothered by the news of Grudzielanek's signing.

"I didn't hear that before, but I just want to keep playing baseball," Casilla said. "I'm just going to keep doing the best I can and just have fun, try to get better every day."

When asked if he was familiar with Grudzielanek, Casilla said that he remembered him from playing against the Royals.

"I know him. He's a good guy," Casilla said, before adding one more thing. "I think he knows me, too."

Casilla is batting .175 in 36 games for the Twins this season, but he's far from the only second base option that has struggled offensively. Casilla, Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto have combined to hit just .190 with a .270 on-base percentage. Both stats rank the lowest of any Major League team at second base this season.

For now, the Twins will see how Grudzielanek looks while working out for the team in Fort Myers. Smith said that Grudzielanek has been working out on his own and is healthy.

"We're hurting for infielders, so why not?" Gardenhire said. "We'll take a look and see what he can do. If he can help us down the road, great. But I don't think we've signed him to light a fire under anybody. I don't think that's why {Grudzielanek] would sign here. He would sign here hoping he could get in shape and help us, or at least get an opportunity."

Casilla just plans to keep working to be better, both at the plate and in the field. And he feels like he's getting close to finding that form which made him such a successful No. 2 hitter for the Twins in 2008.

"I think I'm ready, because I was doing very good in Rochester," Casilla said. "The manager just let me play and if I was doing something wrong, he would tell me. He let me play and I was having a lot of fun there. I'm going to continue doing that here."

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