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12/10/08 8:56 PM EST

It's official: Loretta joins Dodgers

Veteran utilityman gets one-year contract for $1.25 million

LAS VEGAS -- Mark Loretta has the infield versatility of Nomar Garciaparra and the veteran clubhouse presence of Mark Sweeney, which is why the Dodgers made the 37-year-old utilityman their first bench acquisition of the winter.

Two days after agreeing to terms, the Dodgers on Wednesday announced Loretta's signing to a one-year contract for $1.25 million plus a possible $250,000 in incentives.

Loretta, a two-time All-Star, hit .280 in 261 at-bats for the Astros last season with four homers and 38 RBIs, batting .330 against left-handers. He played 46 games at second base, 17 at third base, five at shortstop and two at first base.

Loretta seemingly takes the role of Garciaparra, who appeared at three infield positions but is considering retirement because of health issues, although Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he still wants to add another infielder for the bench, most likely at shortstop.

"I'm pretty comfortable anywhere in the infield," Loretta said. "Depth in the infield is important and I guess they didn't have that last year. I'll be ready when they need me."

Loretta, who lives in San Diego, said he grew up a Dodgers fan and has "fond memories" of attending games at Dodger Stadium in the 1970s and 1980s. He said he had been negotiating a contract with the D-backs, but once the Dodgers were "in the mix, it was pretty clear that's where I wanted to go."

Colletti, who is counting on his core of young players to take their games to the next level, is looking for Loretta to provide leadership.

"I see him really helping [second baseman] Blake DeWitt," Colletti said. "He's a winning-type player. His versatility, his understanding of the game, how to prepare. That's why he's here."

Said Loretta: "In the clubhouse, I'll just be there for the guys and keep an even-keel. I hope that rubs off. A lot of times role players have a big impact on the character of a team."

The Dodgers made a run at Loretta when he was a free agent two years ago, but he signed with the Astros, and they tried to trade for him with the Astros last season.

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