Merloni might help friend Nomar pick Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Utility infielder Lou Merloni agreed Friday to
a minor-league contract with the Cleveland Indians, returning to
the team he played for in 2004.

Merloni played in just five games for the
Los Angeles Angels
last season before tearing ligaments in his right ankle on May 1.

He will have a chance to win a roster spot in spring training,
and the versatile 34-year-old may also help the Indians in their
pursuit of free agent Nomar Garciaparra. Merloni and Garciaparra
were teammates with the Boston Red Sox and remain close friends.

Cleveland is interested in signing Garciaparra, who played last
season for the Chicago Cubs. The Indians envision him as a utility
role or the club could move him into right field and use Casey
Blake as a part-time first baseman, third baseman or outfielder.

The 32-year-old Garciaparra has made it known he's willing to
play any position but pitcher and catcher.

In 2004, Merloni batted .289 with four homers and 28 RBI in 71
games for the Indians. He batted .327 against left-handers. A .272
career hitter, Merloni began his career with Boston in 1993. He has
66 homers and 124 RBI in 414 career games.

If Merloni is added to the 40-man roster, he would get a
$500,000, one-year contract.