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01/15/10 3:18 PM EST

Tribe inks Redmond to one-year deal

Veteran backstop adds needed experience behind plate

CLEVELAND -- The Indians traded Kelly Shoppach last month because of Shoppach's expected pay raise in arbitration and because they felt particularly good about two young catchers, Lou Marson and Carlos Santana, in the pipeline.

But Shoppach's departure left the Tribe without a veteran backstop to work with the club's decidedly young pitching staff, and that's where Mike Redmond comes into play.

The Indians signed the 38-year-old Redmond to a one-year contract with an $850,000 guarantee Friday. It is their first Major League free agent signing this offseason, and it brings their 40-man roster total to 39.

Redmond, a veteran of 12 Major League seasons with the Marlins and Twins, has the potential to make an additional $50,000 in incentives. He'll receive $10,000 each for 40, 45, 50, 60 and 70 games started.

The Tribe's official company line is that Redmond was signed to play backup to one of two rookies -- either Marson, who is the odds-on favorite to claim the regular job behind the plate, or Wyatt Toregas. The signing of Redmond most likely means Toregas, who made his debut with the Tribe in the second half last season, gets bumped back to Triple-A Columbus, where Santana, the Indians' top prospect, will also begin the season.

With all this youth in the catching department and in the starting rotation, the Indians felt it necessary to look for the kind of experience they lost when they traded Shoppach, while saving some cash, at the same time.

"Everybody really raves about [Redmond]," assistant general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He has an exceptionally high baseball IQ. He's a great teammate and an intense competitor, but, at the same time, keeps things loose. He's universally respected, from front-office people, coaches and teammates."

He also comes with a background in the American League Central, having spent the past five years serving as the backup to Joe Mauer in Minnesota.

Redmond debuted with the Marlins in 1998 and has compiled a career average of .289 with 113 doubles, 13 homers and 238 RBIs in 741 games. He was a member of the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship club, and he was a part of the Twins' 2006 and '09 AL Central crowns. He hit a combined .297 in 257 games with Minnesota, including last season, when he batted .237 (32-for-135) in 45 games.

"His knowledge of the American League and our division was certainly an added benefit," Antonetti said.

Redmond should liven up the Tribe clubhouse in what could be an uphill battle this season. For one, he's a gamer, as evidenced in 2007, when he started in the Twins' lineup one day after getting struck in the head by Jim Thome's bat and receiving seven stitches. But he's also a bit eccentric. Take, for instance, his habit of taking batting practice in the nude in order to get out of slumps.

While Redmond won't be a regular in their lineup, the Indians expect him to be an asset.

"He's a very good receiver and game-caller," Antonetti said. "We feel he's a great complement to our team. He'll provide leadership and mentor young catchers, as well as our pitching staff."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.