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LaRue returning to Cards for 2010

LaRue returning to Cards for 2010

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals can cross one item off the bottom of their shopping list. They've squared away their backup catcher for 2010.

The club announced on Monday that it has re-signed Jason LaRue to a one-year contract, bringing LaRue back for a third season in St. Louis. The Cards also announced the signing of infielder Ruben Gotay to a Minor League contract with a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.

St. Louis typically moves quickly to sign or re-sign a backup catcher, but things took a bit longer with LaRue than in some years. General manager John Mozeliak confirmed that he and his staff pondered alternatives before re-upping LaRue.

"We explored what all our options were, and ultimately as we were getting a sense for how the market was unfolding, we felt most comfortable bringing back Jason," Mozeliak said. "Obviously, he's a very popular player on our team -- one that was respected -- and it just seemed to make the most sense."

LaRue, who will turn 36 during Spring Training, appeared in 51 games for the Cardinals in 2009. He batted .240 with a .288 on-base percentage, a .327 slugging percentage, two home runs and six RBIs. LaRue threw out five of 15 would-be basestealers.

The Cardinals had expressed some interest in bringing in a catcher who might share more of the innings with Yadier Molina, who consistently carries one of the heavier workloads in baseball. Instead, Mozeliak pointed to two young catchers in the farm system who might cover some innings -- though St. Louis is unlikely to carry three catchers on the active 25-man roster.

"You'll have [Matt Pagnozzi] at Triple-A -- he got a little taste of it this year -- and Bryan Anderson will be a year older," Mozeliak said. "So I think as you look at what we have below, that's starting to evolve. We just feel internally we were OK, and rather than go outside and sign someone that was somewhat unknown, we decided to stay with somebody we were most comfortable with."

For his career, LaRue is a .232/.316/.398 hitter with 94 home runs in 893 games. He played for the Reds and Royals before joining the Cardinals for the 2008 season.

Gotay, meanwhile, will likely provide depth at Triple-A Memphis, but he also is an intriguing offensive player who might crack the roster out of Spring Training.

He has hit .255 with a .315 on-base percentage and a .371 slugging percentage in his big league career. In 2009, however, Gotay put up a .272/.429/.450 line for the D-backs' Triple-A Reno affiliate, hitting 11 home runs and drawing 102 walks.

A switch-hitter, Gotay turns 27 in December.

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

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