Juan Castro joins Dodgers for 4th time

The Dodgers have reached agreement with veteran Juan Castro on a minor league contract that includes an invitation to major league spring training. Castro, who originally was signed by the Dodgers out of Mexico in 1991, will be joining the organization for the fourth time.

Castro had also been in negotiations on a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, with whom he spent the first half of last season, but ultimately chose the Dodgers, who offered him a deal that will carry a $500,000 salary if he makes the big league club.

"He always felt he was a Dodger from the time he was a young man, and he is glad to be back," said Oscar Suarez, Castro's Phoenix-based agent. "And plus, he felt like he had some unfinished business last year because he didn't finish the season the way he wanted to."

Castro was signed by the Dodgers 10 days after he was released by the Phillies on July 17, but he wound up playing only one game in the majors. The team tried to call him up from Triple-A Albuquerque for the September roster expansion, but a rules technicality made him ineligible. Castro, with the full blessing of club officials, had gone home to the Phoenix area to be with his ailing wife rather than reporting to Albuquerque when he was sent down in August. Although the requisite 10 days had passed since the Dodgers had sent Castro down, the fact he had never actually reported meant that 10-day clock had never officially started.

Castro's wife's illness has now passed and is no longer a factor, Suarez said.

Castro, 38, is entering his 17th and possibly final major league season. A defensive specialist with a career batting average of .228, his versatility -- he can play second, third or short and, in an emergency, even first -- makes him appealing to a Dodgers team on which rookie manager Don Mattingly figures to do a lot of lineup shuffling on a daily basis.

After shuttling back and forth between Triple-A and the majors for five seasons with the Dodgers, Castro was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in April 2000 and didn't return until 2009, when he re-signed with the club and became a key role player that season as the Dodgers stormed to a second consecutive National League West title. Castro then became a free agent last winter and signed with the Phillies.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.