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Originally published December 28, 2009 at 4:22 PM | Page modified December 28, 2009 at 10:58 PM

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Mariners sign catcher Josh Bard, reliever Chad Cordero to minor-league deals

Josh Bard, Chad Cordero will receive invitations to spring training, opportunities to make Mariners roster.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Some additional insurance at the catching position was picked up rather cheaply by the Mariners on Monday with the addition of veteran Josh Bard.

The Mariners signed the switch-hitting Bard, 31, to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, hoping he provides a backup plan in the event things don't work out with incumbent catcher Rob Johnson or rookie Adam Moore. Johnson is coming off three surgeries on his hip and wrist this winter, while Moore had only a handful of games behind the plate in the majors last September.

Bard will join veteran Eliezer Alfonzo, signed to a minor-league deal two weeks ago, in training camp and get a shot.

"You have two big-league catchers who have experience, and then from last year you have two guys with one year of major-league experience between them," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in explaining the move. "With Rob Johnson, he's had three surgeries. We don't know how he's going to be once he gets out there. And then with Adam Moore, he's a player with very little experience at the big-league level.

"Throw in the fact that, in this day and age, no team gets through a season with just two catchers, and we feel a lot more comfortable having some other guys around. How it all plays out, we'll just have to let the pieces fall where they may."

The Mariners also signed relief pitcher Chad Cordero, 27, to a minor-league deal with an invitation to camp. Cordero was picked up by the team last March, having undergone season-ending arm surgery the previous summer with the Washington Nationals.

A onetime big-league closer, Cordero saw his velocity top out at just 85 mph last summer and appeared in just a handful of games at the rookie level in Peoria and Everett.

But Cordero has lost weight working out this winter and the team wants to see whether this second year back from arm surgery can lead to an upturn in velocity.

"He needed the whole year to rehab," Zduriencik said. "If he's going to bounce back, we were hoping he would give us the first opportunity to reap the benefits of it since we were the ones who took a chance on him last March. And that's what he's doing.

"So, he'll come to camp and we'll see where he's at. We won't really have an idea until he gets out there, and I'm sure he won't either."

As for Bard, a career .259 hitter, he'll try to land a catching job in a ninth major-league season after stops along the way in Cleveland, Boston, San Diego and then in Washington last summer. Bard's career percentage at throwing out would-be base-stealers is just 20 percent, but it was up in the mid-30 percent range in Cleveland from 2002 to 2005, when he teamed with, among others, new Mariners ace Cliff Lee.

Bard's throwing numbers plummeted during a half-season in Boston in 2006, when he became the primary catcher for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Later, with San Diego, he caught Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Greg Maddux, three of the worst pitchers in baseball at slide-stepping to the plate and holding runners. Bard threw out just 30 of 247 would-be base-stealers — 12 percent — in parts of three seasons from 2006 to 2008.

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Zduriencik said he couldn't be certain what caused the numbers slide — Bard was back up at 27 percent efficiency in Washington last season — but added it isn't really a concern.

"Our main objective here was to gain more depth at the catching position and we've done that," he said. "Now, we'll just let the pieces fall where they may and see who comes out on top."

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com.

Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners

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