LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers took the first step toward rebuilding their bench on Monday, signing free agent Gary Bennett as backup to catcher Russell Martin. Normally, the signing of a backup catcher is not big news. But Bennett was named in last week's Mitchell Report and has since admitted using human growth hormone to jump-start rehabilitation from a knee injury. "There were rumors around then that it was a wonder drug that helped injuries go away a lot quicker," he said.
Reacting to the Mitchell Report, Bennett said it was "a stupid decision." On Monday he said he was relieved that the Dodgers signed him anyway. "More relieved than surprised," he said. "It was a mistake. If, in fact, I didn't get a job because of that, I had no one to blame but myself and I would deal with that. I'm thankful and relieved and I hope it won't be held against me." Bennett has been a lonely voice of contrition, stepping up shortly after the Mitchell Report was released, unlike most of the other players named. He said he couldn't speculate why others haven't joined him. "I don't know other situations," he said. "I did know what was said about me was the truth. I felt I should say so. If it ended my career, so be it. I'd have to live with it." Bennett gave Dodgers officials "a heads-up" that he might be named before the report was released and they spoke again on Friday. "They said, 'Thank you for being honest with us.' " he said. Bennett, 35, spent the past two seasons as the backup for the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit .252 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 155 at-bats in 2007. The Dodgers will be his eighth Major League team, all in the National League. The Dodgers gave Bennett $825,000 for 2008 plus an option for 2009 at $900,000 or a $50,000 buyout. Bennett replaces Mike Lieberthal, who hit .234 with no homers and one RBI in only 77 at-bats as Martin's backup. Bennett said he's expecting not to play much, as Martin started 143 games en route to the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. "I hope that's the case," he said. "I played against him and he's a heck of a player. Obviously, if we're successful, he's a huge part in that. With the roster and talent on the team, it makes me excited to be part of it."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.