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2015 Spring-Training Countdown, Day 11: Mark Grudzielanek

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The number 11 doesn't have a really strong history with the Cubs.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

One of the rules I have for this countdown is that the player I choose must have a photo that is both available to me and that I have the rights to use, and the number must be visible.

Thus I was unable to write this installment about the player I wanted to -- Don Kessinger, since there aren't any photos of him that meet those criteria.

Truth be told, the history of Cubs wearing No. 11 isn't studded with stars:

Billy Jurges (1932-33, 1935-36), Bennie Tate (1934), Charlie Wiedemeyer (1934), Bill Lee (1937-42), Al Todd (1943), Mickey Kreitner (1943-44), Mickey Livingston (1945-47), Cliff Aberson (1947-49), Merv Shea (coach, 1948), Bob Muncrief (1949), Carl Sawatski (1950), Smoky Burgess (1951), Toby Atwell (1952-53), Joe Garagiola (1953-54), Bob Speake (1955, 1957), Cal Neeman (1958-1960), Ed Bouchee (1960-61), Alex Grammas (1962-63), Moe Morhardt (1962), Paul Popovich (1964),Don Kessinger (1964-75), Ivan DeJesus (player, 1977-81; coach, 2008-11), Dan Briggs (1982), Ron Cey (1983-86), Jim Sundberg (1987-88), Phil Stephenson (1989), Luis Salazar (1989-90), George Bell (1991), Jeff Kunkel (1992), Rey Sanchez (1993-97), Jose Nieves (1998-2000), Michael Tucker (2001), Todd Dunwoody (2001), Chris Stynes (2002), Mark Grudzielanek (2003-04), Ronny Cedeno (2005), Jacque Jones (2006-07), Blake DeWitt (2012), Kyuji Fujikawa (2013-14)

After the 1930s, when players changed numbers frequently and a couple of good players wore it (Jurges and Lee), No. 11 has been worn mostly by forgettable catchers and middle infielders, with a handful of outfielders thrown in for variety. Kessinger was by far the best player to wear it since 1960, with Ron Cey giving it a couple of good years. Cey, who had worn No. 10 throughout his Dodgers career, took No. 11 with the Cubs because No. 10 at the time was taken by an established player, Leon Durham. There was one decent year from George Bell and another from Jacque Jones, who was very good down the stretch in the 2007 pennant race.

And then there's Mark Grudzielanek, who the Cubs acquired in one of Jim Hendry's first (and best) trades. Hendry was under pressure to dump the last two years of Todd Hundley's four-year contract after two disastrous seasons, and somehow he found a taker in the Dodgers. L.A. wanted to do a salary swap, so the Cubs took on the contracts of Grudzielanek and Eric Karros, both of whom had down years in 2002 and were considered expendable.

Big win for the Cubs. Karros produced on the field and became a clubhouse leader and Grudzielanek played a solid second base, hitting .314/.366/.416 (OPS+ 103) and posting 2.3 bWAR. He was good defensively and the .366 OBP was a big help to the team.

It's still a bit mystifying why, then, the Cubs went and signed Todd Walker to, essentially, replace Grudz in 2004. Sure, Grudz was getting older (34) but was still productive. Maybe it was that "we gotta get more lefthanded" thing. Grudz became a part-time player and still hit well in 2004 -- .307/.347/.432 -- in 81 games. Oddly, he hit more home runs (six) in 257 at-bats in 2004 than he had hit in 2003 in 481 at-bats (three). Overall he hit better with the Cubs than with any of the other five teams he played for.

He'll be one of those guys mostly forgotten until someone says, "Hey, remember him? He played on a Cubs playoff team!" And then the fond memories will return.

Grudzielanek is back in baseball this year, beginning a managing career with the Kane County Cougars, now an affiliate of the Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, No. 11, which was worn for the last two years by the eminently-forgettable Kyuji Fujikawa, has been issued for 2015 to Tommy La Stella, another middle infielder who hits lefthanded. I'm not expecting all that much from TLS, but maybe he'll surprise us.