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12/19/08 6:17 PM EST

Gerut, Padres avoid salary arbitration

A pleasant surprise in '08, outfielder signs one-year contract

SAN DIEGO -- Center fielder Jody Gerut, one of the bright spots for the Padres last season, agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.1775 million on Friday, thus avoiding a salary arbitration hearing.

The 31-year-old Gerut hit .296 with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs in 100 games last season even though he missed nearly two months.

Gerut's contract represents a substantial increase from the $700,000 he earned last season after making the team out of Spring Training. He signed a Minor League contract just weeks before the team reported to Peoria, Ariz.

Gerut started the season with the Padres but was optioned to Triple-A Portland on April 5 when Jim Edmonds came off the disabled list. Gerut hit .308 in 27 games with Portland before he was promoted on May 9 after Edmonds was released.

Gerut, in his first Major League action since 2005, quickly became a fixture in center field and showed good defense, especially covering a lot of ground at spacious PETCO Park. He proved more than a capable leadoff hitter as well, hitting .296 in that spot.

Gerut hit a game-winning, two-run home run against Arizona on Aug. 25, but suffered a badly sprained left middle finger attempting to make a sliding catch in the outfield two days later.

Gerut didn't play in another game for the Padres, missing the final month of the season.

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