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12/14/11 9:10 PM EST

Punto joins Red Sox as club bolsters bench

Veteran can fill in at three infield spots, play outfield in pinch

BOSTON -- The Red Sox, suddenly busy after a quiet couple of weeks, bolstered their bench Wednesday by signing utility infielder Nick Punto to a two-year, $3 million contract.

The addition of Punto is the third move made by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington in the last two days. On Tuesday, he signed catcher Kelly Shoppach to a one-year deal. And hours before closing the deal with Punto, the Red Sox traded Jed Lowrie and pitching prospect Kyle Weiland to the Astros for righty reliever Mark Melancon.

Punto can effectively replace Lowrie as a bench player, only he is more durable, experienced and a step up defensively.

The switch-hitting Punto broke into the Majors with the Phillies in 2001 and played parts of three seasons there before moving on to the Twins from 2004-10.

Playing for the Cardinals in 2011, he hit .278 with a homer and 20 RBIs in 63 games. Punto played in six of the seven games against the Rangers in the World Series, hitting .214.

Aside from his versatility, Punto is known for his spunk and positive attitude.

Punto can play second, short and third, while also getting a little experience in the outfield during his career.

The 34-year-old has played 887 games in his career, hitting .249 with 14 homers and 218 RBIs.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.