Veteran outfielder Jay Gibbons, who returned to the major leagues for the first time in three years when the Los Angeles Dodgers purchased his contract from their Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate on Aug. 8, re-signed with the club on Thursday, agreeing to terms on a one-year, $400,000 contract that includes a series of performance bonuses.
The news came just hours after another veteran outfielder, Scott Podsednik, walked away from a $2 million mutual option and became a free agent. That leaves the Dodgers' everyday left field job open, possibly for Gibbons, who hit .280 with five homers and 17 RBI in 37 games for the Dodgers during the final weeks of the season.
Gibbons, who will turn 34 during spring training, had hit as many as 28 homers and driven in as many as 100 runs in single seasons during a seven-year stretch with the Baltimore Orioles that ended when he was released at the end of spring training in 2008. The fact that a player of his caliber and experience level was willing to accept a contract with a base salary equal to the major league minimum spoke not only to Gibbons' desire to remain with the Dodgers, but also to how far he has fallen since his name appeared in the infamous Mitchell report on performance-enhancing drug use in December 2007, a stain on his record to which he freely owns up.
"I was embarrassed,'' Gibbons said on the day the Dodgers called him up. "It was a tough point in my life. It's something I wish I could take back, but you can't. I had a lot of support from my friends and family. I dealt with it, and now it's past me.''
Gibbons spent much of the next two seasons in the independent Atlantic League, with brief minor league stints with the Milwaukee Brewers and Florida Marlins sprinkled in. He even retired for a while. But he ultimately came back, playing in the Venezuelan Winter League just before signing a minor league deal with the Dodgers on Dec. 22, 2009 that didn't even include an invitation to big league spring training.
Finally, with former All-Star outfielder Garret Anderson not cutting it as the Dodgers' primary left-handed pinch hitter, Anderson was released and Gibbons was promoted to fill that spot at a time when he was hitting .347 with 19 homers, 83 RBI and a .375 on-base percentage for Albuquerque.
Gibbons, who played his college ball at Cal State-Los Angeles and still lives in the area, now knows he will have a guaranteed job in the majors this season. Even if he doesn't secure the everyday left field position in spring training, he presumably will once again be the Dodgers' primary left-handed bat off the bench.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.