Ausmus returns to Dodgers

Updated: January 26, 2010, 11:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Veteran catcher Brad Ausmus will return for an 18th season, re-signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers for one year and $1 million on Tuesday.

The guarantee is for $1 million, but Ausmus' salary for 2010 is $850,000. The contract also includes a $1 million mutual option for 2011 or a $150,000 buyout.

"Brad provided us with a very strong presence off the bench last season, and his contributions were many, both on and off the field," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said.

The signing was first reported by ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.

Ausmus will back up Russell Martin, who slipped in his fourth season in the majors after two straight All-Star appearances. Ausmus appeared in only 36 games for Los Angeles last season but batted .295 in 107 at-bats.

Known for handling pitching staffs, Ausmus has won three Gold Gloves and was an All-Star with the Houston Astros in 1999.

Ausmus' catcher's ERA (3.64) was more than a quarter of a run higher than Martin's (3.37). But Ausmus seemed to have the magic touch with lefty Clayton Kershaw, one of the best pitching prospects the Dodgers have developed in years.

In seven starts with Ausmus behind the plate, Kershaw posted a 1.29 ERA, compared to 3.33 in his 23 starts pitching to Martin. His numbers also were markedly better with Ausmus in opponents' batting average (.133 with Ausmus vs. .222 with Martin), opponents' on-base percentage (.282 vs. .315) and opponents' slugging percentage (.170 vs. .319).

"He was a big addition for us in how he plays, who he is, what he adds to the clubhouse and what he adds to Russell's maturation as a catcher,'' Colletti said. "He is one of the sharpest guys around, and he loves to play. But he also loves to help, and he loves to contribute.''

Ausmus is a career .252 hitter and has played for four teams, with the bulk of his career happening in Houston.

If the Dodgers hadn't re-signed Ausmus, they were prepared to go with longtime prospect A.J. Ellis as Martin's backup. Now, Ellis is almost certainly headed back to Triple A for a third consecutive season. He hit .314 with an outstanding .438 on-base percentage at Albuquerque last season and continued to develop a reputation as a solid handler of pitchers.

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Tony Jackson and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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