Versatile infielder Nick Punto agreed with the Minnesota Twins on a two-year contract worth $8.5 million yesterday.

After an awful 2007 season at the plate, Punto bounced back to hit .284 and was the Twins' starting shortstop last season.

He declared free agency at the end of the season and had several teams interested, including the Phillies, who had signed him out of Saddleback Junior College in Mission Viejo, Calif., in 1998. He was sent to Minnesota after the 2003 season, along with Carlos Silva, in the trade that brought Eric Milton to Philadelphia.

Manager Ron Gardenhire had said that Punto would be the team's starting shortstop entering spring training if the club re-signed him.

Rule 5 draft.

The Washington Nationals selected righthander Terrell Young with the first pick of the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings in Las Vegas, plucking him from the Cincinnati Reds.

The New York Mets, still seeking bullpen help, chose relievers Darren O'Day from the Los Angeles Angels and Rocky Cherry from Baltimore.

Players chosen in the Rule 5 draft must stay on the active major-league roster with their new club all season or be offered back to their old team for $25,000.

The New York Yankees had four players poached from their triple-A roster; the Angels lost three.

The Yanks lost two players who were with the double-A Trenton Thunder last season: infielder Reegie Corona to Seattle and lefthander Zachary Kroenke to Florida.

Noteworthy.

Reliever Kyle Farnsworth and the Kansas City Royals reached a preliminary agreement on a two-year, $9.25 million contract. . . . Infielder Wilson Betemit and the Chicago White Sox agreed to a one-year, $1.3 million deal. . . . The Texas Rangers acquired righthanded reliever Beau Vaughan from Boston to complete a previous trade and signed pitchers Brian Gordon and Joe Torres to minor-league contracts.