Dodgers Sign Bennett as Backup Catcher

The Dodgers have collected catchers this off-season like some people collect stamps, but they sorted through them and found the one they wanted, signing Gary Bennett to replace Mike Lieberthal as Russell Martin's backup. Tony Jackson of the L.A. Daily News called him, "This year's Maytag repairman."

Bennett, who will be 36 in April, accepted a one-year, $825,000 contract, some $325,000 less than Mike Lieberthal made in 38 appearances and over 77 times at bat as last year's backup catcher but still probably considerably less than what Russell Martin's $390,000.

"Gary provides us with a veteran catcher who can spell Russell from time to time," said Colletti. "He has been a member of some very good teams and the fact that he has spent his entire Major League career in the National League is also something we found to be beneficial."

Colletti said it was made clear to Bennett in the negotiating process that he won't be playing much -- although he'll play more than Lieberthal did if the rest of the lineup is more productive. The fact it was lacking pop last year is the reason Grady didn't sit Russ very often, because they had to have his bat in there.

?Bennett, 35, spent the last two seasons as the primary backup catcher to Yadier Molina in St. Louis and hit .252 with two homers and 17 RBI in 2007.  Over his 12-year career, Bennett has 21 home runs, 188 RBI, 73 doubles and a .242 career average. The Illinois native was drafted in 1990 by Philadelphia and has spent his entire career in the National League, playing for the Phillies, Mets, Rockies, Padres, Brewers, Nationals and Cardinals.    

Last year, Bennett hit .314 following the All-Star break, including .400 (8-for-20) in the month of September and closed the season on a 7-for-11 tear (.636). The veteran also batted .313 with runners on base, .333 with runners in scoring position and two out and .383 from the seventh inning on.  

In 2002, Bennett turned in his best season, batting .265 with four homers and 26 RBI while playing in 90 games. The next year, he established career highs with 96 games played, 307 at-bats and 42 RBI. The six-foot, right-handed backstop matched his career high with four home runs during the 2006 campaign.

Bennett has appeared in two playoff series, seeing action in the 2006 National League Division and League Championship Series, during the Cardinals' march to a World Series title that season.    

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