LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- David Dellucci thought his days as a part-timer were coming to a glorious close in 2005.

The Rangers had become the first team to give the left-handed Dellucci a legitimate chance to hit left-handed pitching, and he had every reason to believe he would be an everyday presence in Buck Showalter's lineup in '06.

Then came an unexpected trade to the Phillies just before the start of the season, and Dellucci was back to square one, starting solely against right-handers.

"That was extremely difficult for me," he said. "I felt after the 2005 season that I had left that stereotype behind me and established myself as an everyday player. To have that role diminished was very difficult for me."

Dellucci hopes his role will increase now that he's with the Indians. He and the club put the final touches Wednesday on a three-year, $11.5 million contract that had been reported for more than a week.

But while Dellucci and his agent, Joe Longo, have expressed a belief that the Indians will be giving him considerable starts against lefties, general manager Mark Shapiro is a bit more cautious.

"We'll certainly give him the option of playing against left-handers," Shapiro said. "But that will be up to how he's playing and how some other guys are playing. But at minimum, he'll get all the starts against right-handers in left field."

That means a reduction in playing time for the arbitration-eligible Jason Michaels, who is expected to remain in the fold.

Michaels was brought to the Indians a year ago to replace Coco Crisp as the everyday man in left field, but his .252 average against right-handers and his overall on-base percentage of .326 in the No. 2 spot of the lineup left quite a bit to be desired.

Now, Michaels will share time in left with Dellucci, with Casey Blake and Shin-Soo Choo the primary options in the right-field mix.

"Jason Michaels will be in the lineup every day against left-handed pitching," Shapiro said. "He certainly has the ability and versatility to play more than that."

Shapiro also believes Dellucci, who hit .292 with 13 homers and 39 RBIs last season, has the ability to get significant time against lefties. But Dellucci will first have to prove it.

The 33-year-old Dellucci said he's up to the challenge.

"I'll get considerable at-bats against left-handed pitching," he said. "That's one of the reasons I chose to come to Cleveland was for the opportunity to play on an everyday basis. This is an opportunity that I've been wanting throughout my career."