Norton signs one-year deal with Braves
Top-notch pinch-hitter will return to Atlanta in 2009 to help off bench
ATLANTA -- After proving to be one of Major League Baseball's top pinch-hitters last year, Greg Norton proved valuable enough to earn a return to the Braves.
The Braves announced Friday afternoon that they have signed Norton to a one-year contract. Financial terms weren't revealed.
This past season, Norton led all Major Leaguers with three pinch-hit homers, 18 pinch-hit RBIs, and 17 pinch-hit walks. His 18 pinch-hits ranked second behind Philadelphia's Greg Dobbs.
After the Braves acquired him from the Mariners on May 5, Norton hit just .246. But the .316 (18-for-57) batting average he compiled as a pinch-hitter in Atlanta ranked as the National League's third-best mark.
Most of Norton's success came down the stretch, as he reached base safely in 16 of his final 32 plate appearances. After hitting just .232 before the All-Star break, the 36-year-old veteran hit .322 (20-for-62) in his final 57 games.
The switch-hitting Norton is best utilized from the left side of the plate. This past season, he hit .289 (39-for-135) against right-handed pitchers and .192 (10-for-52) against left-handers.
Norton, who will be the first to admit that he's not the most skilled defensive player, could occasionally see time in left field and at first base. But his primary contributions will come off the bench. Since the start of the 2001 season, he leads all Major Leaguers with 13 pinch-hit homers and 64 pinch-hit RBIs.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.