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Saturday, December 21
Deal includes option for 2004 season

Associated Press

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks reached agreement Saturday on a one-year deal with first baseman Mark Grace.

Mark Grace

Terms of the contract, which includes a club option for the 2004 season, were not announced, but Grace was believed to have taken a pay cut from the $3 million he earned last season.

Grace, 38, will serve mainly as backup and mentor to rookie Lyle Overbay, who will move up to the big club next spring after a highly successful run through the minors. Like Grace, Overbay is left-handed.

"I think Mark is excited about the prospect of working with Lyle,'' general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "He remembers what it was like back when he was breaking in.''

When Grace came up for the Chicago Cubs 15 years ago, he replaced Leon Durham and had a tough time because there was no veteran who would help him through that first big-league season.

"I think he's determined to avoid a repeat of what he experienced,'' Garagiola said.

Grace lives in the Phoenix area with his wife and young son and had little interest in playing anywhere else, even for more money. The Diamondbacks also covet his clubhouse presence. Irreverent and often hilarious, he is one of the most popular players in baseball.

If Grace retires after this season, he has been assured a spot on the Diamondbacks broadcast crew as part of a handshake agreement he made with managing general partner Jerry Colangelo during the season. He also has indicated an interest in someday coaching and managing.

Grace, who signed with Arizona as a free agent in 2001 after 13 seasons with the Cubs, has a career .305 average with 170 home runs and 1,130 RBI. A four-time Gold Glove winner, he appeared in 124 games for Arizona last season, batting .252 with seven homers and 48 RBI.

His 506 career doubles rank fourth among active major leaguers. He will enter the 2003 season 82 hits shy of 2,500 in his career.

In another move, the Diamondbacks did not tender an offer to outfielder Mark Little but reached a minor league agreement with him that includes an invitation to the major league club's spring training.

On Friday, the Diamondbacks tendered contracts to all four of their arbitration-eligible players -- newly acquired pitcher Elmer Dessens, reliever Byung-Hyun Kim and outfielders Quinton McCracken and David Dellucci.

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