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02/12/08 6:55 PM ET

Mets ink Saenz to Minor League deal

Utilityman could fill role of backup first baseman

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In what could be identified as yet another "last move before we start Spring Training," the Mets signed right-handed-hitting veteran pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz to a Minor League contract and invited him to their soon-to-open camp. A day after the club signed Tony Armas Jr. to compete for the long relief assignment filled by Darren Oliver and Aaron Sele the two last seasons, it signed Saenz as a free agent, seemingly to serve in the role filled by Julio Franco in 2006 and by Franco and later Jeff Conine last year.

Seanz, who turned 37 in October, rarely was used in defensive situations last season, his fourth with the Dodgers. He had 75 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter last season. His 14 hits in that role were the fourth most in the big leagues. He batted .222 with two home runs, 12 RBIs, two sacrifice flies, and nine walks. He played merely 81 innings -- 75 at first base -- in his 92 games, starting eight games at first base and none at third. He didn't commit any errors at either position, but is hardly considered a quality defender.

Where he fits with the Mets -- if he wins a place on a roster that seems quite established even at this point -- it will be in the Franco role, pinch-hitting and occasionally filling in at first base for Carlos Delgado. Saenz's winning a place on the Opening Day roster will probably be determined by how well Ryan Church fares against left-handed pitching and how many relievers the Mets need to carry. If Church plays regularly, Damion Easley would be more available for duty at first base. For now, Easley appears destined to back up in right, at third and at first.

Saenz's overall at-bats have decreased from 319 in 2005, to 179 in 2006 to 110 last season. He batted .191 with four home runs and 18 RBIs last season. He has a .256 career average with 12 home runs and 58 RBIs in 281 pinch-hit at-bats. The 12 home runs are the 11th most in big league history.

He seemingly is fond of hitting in Shea Stadium, witness his .538 average and 1.077 slugging average in 13 career at-bats at Shea.

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