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In some ways, Kottaras a better fit

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  March 18, 2009 11:32 AM

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Don’t be surprised by the fact that the Red Sox have cut catcher Josh Bard. In many ways, George Kottaras, who has the backup catcher's role to lose according to general manager Theo Epstein, makes more sense for the Red Sox for an assortment of reasons.

For starters, Kottaras is cheaper. Beyond that, as a lefthanded hitter with some power, he is a much better offensive complement to Jason Varitek behind the plate.

In case you missed it, the Red Sox announced this morning that they have released Bard, who was due a non-guaranteed salary of $1.7 million this season. By releasing Bard now, the Red Sox give Bard the chance of catching on with another team and are obligated to pay just one-sixth of his salary, a number that translates into about $283,000. Had the Sox waited until tomorrow to release Bard, his guaranteed salary would have increased to one-fifth of $1.7 million, about $340,000.

Bard's salary of $1.7 million only would have become fully guaranteed if he were on the Opening Day roster.

All of this bodes quite well for Kottaras, who hit .243 with 22 home runs, a .348 on-base percentage and .802 OPS at Triple A Pawtucket last year. Kottaras's productivity from the left side fits well in tandem with Varitek, who struggled badly from the left side last season.

Bard batted just .230 from the left side last year with an OPS of .598, the latter of which was worse than even Varitek's number of .616.

In retrospect, the Sox may have signed Bard over the winter as insurance had they been unable to re-sign Varitek. Bard certainly had a chance at the backup job entering camp, but Sox officials privately were talking up Kottaras early on and, on Friday, Kottaras earned the start behind the plate in knuckleballer Tim Wakefield's outing against the Yankees.

Kottaras is out of options and would have had to clear waivers to be demoted this year, something the Red Sox clearly did not want to risk given his offensive potential.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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