Tony Gwynn Jr. signs minor league deal with invite to spring training

VIERA, Fla. - The Nationals have agreed to terms with outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. on a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training. The 32-year-old has played parts of eight seasons in the majors with the Brewers, Padres, Dodgers and Phillies.

Gwynn played his college ball at San Diego State and was drafted by Milwaukee in the second round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. His best year in the majors came with the Padres, where his father, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, starred for two decades. He hit .270 with 106 hits, including 11 doubles and six triples in 451 plate appearances in 2009.

After signing with the Dodgers, Tony Gwynn Jr. played a career-high 136 games in 2011, hitting .256 with 22 RBIs. Los Angeles designated him for assignment and sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque late in 2012. He spent the entire 2013 season there.

tony-gwynn-phillies-sidebar.jpgGwynn signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia before last season and was invited to spring training, where he surprisingly made the opening day roster. He struggled, though, hitting a lowly .152 in 127 plate appearances before being released in late July. He ended up signing another minor league contract with the Phillies and made his way back to the majors in early September. He was eventually released by the Phillies after the season.

Gwynn tweeted about joining the Nats tonight.

The Nats don’t have many left-handed bats, which could help Gwynn’s case if he can perform well this month. The veteran has played primarily as a center fielder, but has extensive experience at all three outfield positions.

Stephen Strasburg’s head coach at San Diego State was the late Tony Gwynn. Strasburg attended a ceremony before a game at his alma mater on Feb. 14 when the school retired Gwynn’s number.

The Nationals now have two players in the clubhouse this spring with pretty good baseball genes. Minor league infielder Cutter Dykstra’s father Lenny was a three-time All-Star with the Mets and Phillies during his 12-year career in the majors.

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