Gronkiewicz bound for Red Sox

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By Robert Howey

The World Champion Boston Red Sox are the next stop for Lee Gronkiewicz.

Gronkiewicz, the former Lancaster High School and Post 31 American Legion baseball star, signed with the Red Sox in December after becoming a free agent.

The right-handed pitcher signed a minor league contract and has been invited to Boston's major league spring training camp as a non-roster player. Red Sox pitchers and catchers begin spring training Feb. 15 in Fort Myers, Fla.

"I'm excited about going with a world class organization like the Red Sox," Gronkiewicz said. "After becoming a free agent at the end of the season, I had about 12 different offers.

We then got it down to three, and then decided on the Red Sox," Gronkiewicz said. "There's a lot of opportunity with the Red Sox."

A key point in Gronkiewicz's decision was Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, who was with the Cleveland Indians as its farm league director when Gronkiewicz began his pro baseball career.

"John knows me well and knows what I'm capable of on the mound," he said. "It's been a long off-season and I'm chomping at the bit. I'm looking forward to camp with the chance to make the team."

Gronkiewicz, 29, spent the last four seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays' organization.

Last season, he was 3-2 with a 1.80 earned run average and 11 saves in 24 games at Class AA New Hampshire. Gronkiewicz struck out 1.23 batters per inning.

He was also 3-1, 2.82 ERA with two saves in 23 games at Class AAA Syracuse.

Gronkiewicz held batters to a .217 average, striking out 1.03 batters an inning. In his minor league career, Gronkiewicz has amassed 155 saves.

His 2007 highlight was a first-ever promotion to the major league, all be it brief.

He made his major league debut in the Blue Jays' interleague game with the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 19 after being called up June 13. He allowed a run in four innings, the longest relief stint by a Jays' reliever last season.

Dodgers' slugger Jeff Kent, a five-time all-star, was his first big league strikeout victim.

Gronkiewicz signed with the Cleveland Indians in 2001 as an amateur free agent. He spent four years in Cleveland's minor league system before he was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2004 Rule 5 Draft.

In seven minor-league seasons, Gronkiewicz has a career 18-16 record, pitching almost entirely in relief with just one start for the 2007 Syracuse Sky Chiefs, putting up a 2.48 ERA. He has struck out nearly four times as many batters as he walked (421 strikeouts and 111 walks through 2007).

In his senior season at the University of South Carolina, Gronkiewicz was selected to the 2001 All-SEC team and was a first-team All-American.

He led the country in saves that year with 16, and had a 1.42 ERA. Before joining the Gamecocks' program, Gronkiewicz played two seasons at Spartanburg Methodist under former Lancaster High and Post 31 baseball star Tim Wallace.

Last fall, Gronkiewicz served his second stint with the USA Baseball World Cup Team, posting a 1.23 ERA in a team-high six games for the gold medalists Team USA.