Tampa Bay Rays officially sign catcher Jose Molina

ST. PETERSBURG — Jose Molina turns 37 in June and has never started behind the plate more than 81 times in a season, but the 12-year veteran officially joined the Rays on Monday saying he was ready for whatever duty manager Joe Maddon has planned.

"I'll be ready to catch 162 games, put it that way," Molina said. "I'll always be ready to go every day. … If Joe needs me for 162, I'll be ready for 162. If he needs me for 80, I'll be ready for 80. Whatever the team needs me to do, I will be ready for it. I can't tell you I'm going to catch 120 because I never catch that many games, but the one thing for sure is that I will be ready, I will be prepared for that challenge."

Further, he has already sought advice from his brothers, Yadier and Bengie, on how they prepared for everyday duty.

Molina, who will get $1.5 million in 2012, with a 2013 option for the same salary or a $300,000 buyout, looks to be the Rays' primary catcher, with inexperienced Jose Lobaton the likely backup, pending another deal. Kelly Shoppach's option was declined (though there is still a chance he'll return) and John Jaso traded.

Molina said he welcomes the role of mentoring young catchers, as he did with J.P. Arencibia last season in Toronto. "I don't hold anything to myself. I always give everything that I have to everybody," he said. "This time it will happen again."

The Rays are excited to have Molina, primarily for his work behind the plate, with executive vice president Andrew Friedman calling him "one of the best defensive catchers" in the game.

He has been the toughest catcher to steal against over the past four seasons (throwing out 36.5 percent) and is also known for an exceptional ability to frame pitches in the strike zone. "A great addition," starter James Shields said. "We'd be jealous watching the way he caught from the other side."

Coaches set to return

The Rays are set to bring back their coaches on two-year deals and have made Stan Boroski the full-time bullpen coach. An announcement is expected this week.

The two-year term is interesting because Maddon has only one year remaining on his deal, and it is unusual for coaches to have longer contracts than the manager. Both Maddon and the Rays have said they hope to work out an extension.

Boroski, who has been assistant to the pitching coach, filled in as bullpen coach last season when Bobby Ramos left the team due to illness. Boroski is expected to handle both jobs; Ramos could end up with another position in the organization.

The returning coaches are Dave Martinez, bench; Jim Hickey, pitching; Derek Shelton, hitting; George Hendrick, first base/outfield; and Tom Foley, third base/infield.

Also:

• The Astros have received permission to talk to Friedman, a Houston native, about their open GM job, according to the Houston Chronicle. It remains very unlikely that Friedman, who spoke previously with the Angels, would leave. Rays senior VP Gerry Hunsicker, a former Astros GM, is not expected to be interviewed.

• Free-agent 1B Casey Kotchman is working out daily but unsure if he will return to his hometown Rays or sign elsewhere. "We'll let the process work itself out," he said Monday.

• The Rays playoff share was $30,758.08 a man, according to MLB, with the team voting 45 full shares, plus 8.79 partial shares and 24 cash awards.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com

Tampa Bay Rays officially sign catcher Jose Molina 11/28/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 28, 2011 10:57pm]

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