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Former Tampa Bay Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach signs with Boston Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays haven't seen the last of Kelly Shoppach.

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Shoppach signed a one-year, $1.35 million deal with the rival Red Sox and presumably will displace veteran Jason Varitek as Boston's primary backup.

Though the Rays had the first right of refusal on Shoppach —declining his $3.2 million option after he hit .176 last season — having him go to a division rival is not optimal given his knowledge of the Tampa Bay staff.

"That's probably part of the reason why they signed him," Rays manager Joe Maddon joked. "He's probably underneath the heat lamp right now spilling his guts."

Shoppach, 31, began his career with the Sox, then was traded to Cleveland in 2006. In two seasons with the Rays, he hit .185 with 16 homers and 39 RBIs in 150 games but earned praise for his work behind the plate.

"I'm excited to be going back to Boston," Shoppach posted on his Twitter account. "Thanks #Rays twitfam. I hope we can still be friends."

The Rays last month signed veteran Jose Molina for $1.5 million, though at this point they plan to pair him with the inexperienced Jose Lobaton or Robinson Chirinos. They are not likely to have interest in Varitek.

Also:

• Maddon served meals at Salvation Army centers in Bradenton and St. Petersburg as part of his annual Thanksmas event, and plans to expand. "It keeps gaining momentum," he said. "I'm never satisfied. I know this is great and wonderful for a lot of folk, but I want it to keep getting better." Maddon leaves Thursday for Pennsylvania to host Hazleton Integration Project events to improve his hometown.

• Maddon welcomed the return of left-hander J.P. Howell to the bullpen. "I really want to believe that J.P. is going to have a nice rebound in him this year," he said.

• Former big-leaguer Rico Brogna was hired as a pro scout.

Around the majors

LABOR DEAL: Baseball's new labor contract includes more video replay, the chance for a longer All-Star break and a small but likely welcome perk for players: the chance to get a private room during spring training. It also allows teams from the same division to face off before the LCS.

CARDINALS: Second baseman Skip Schumaker agreed to a $3 million, two-year deal.

ORIOLES: Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada agreed to a two-year, $8.15 million contract.

PHILLIES: Left-hander Dontrelle Willis agreed to a one-year contract worth about $1 million.

REDS: Right-hander Andrew Brackman, a former Yankees first-round pick, agreed to a one-year contract.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

Former Tampa Bay Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach signs with Boston Red Sox 12/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 10:52pm]

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