December 17, 2001 at 11:39 PM EST - Updated July 12 at 3:16 AM
CLEVELAND (AP) - Ricky Gutierrez signed a three-year contract with the Cleveland Indians on Monday and will replace Roberto Alomar at second base.
"Along with Omar Vizquel at shortstop, Ricky will give us a strong defensive presence up the middle that will certainly benefit our young pitching staff," general manager Mark Shapiro said.
Alomar was traded to the New York Mets last week in an eight-player deal. The 31-year-old Gutierrez is a career shortstop.
"Nobody can fill the shoes of Roberto Alomar," said Gutierrez, who has played just 27 games at second, none since 1997 with the Houston Astros. "I can just do the best I can and play like Ricky Gutierrez.
"It was kind of tough to think about moving positions, especially after the year I had in Chicago."
Gutierrez set career highs with a .290 average and 66 RBI for the Cubs last season. He also hit 10 homers and scored 76 runs. He hit 21 of his 34 career homers the last two seasons and tied for the major-league lead in sacrifice bunts in each of those years.
"If I help my team win in some way, then I go home happy," Gutierrez said. "I think I'll need to work on my play around the base and turning the double play, but second base is not much different than shortstop. It's just doing things at different angles."
Gutierrez said he spoke with Vizquel, and expects Cleveland's nine-time Gold Glove Award winner to help him make the transition.
"I'm excited about playing with a great player like Omar," he said.
Shapiro would not reveal terms, but said the contract is backloaded. It also includes an option for the 2005 season.
Gutierrez had turned down a reported two-year, $9 million offer from the Cubs.
To make room for Gutierrez on the 40-man roster, the Indians designated outfielder Dave Roberts for assignment.
(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)