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Friars still seeking backup backstop

Friars still seeking backup backstop

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SAN DIEGO -- Padres general manager Kevin Towers said Tuesday that the lone missing piece to his offseason wish list is finding a veteran catcher to back up and mentor rookie Nick Hundley.

But the player believed to be one of his top targets, veteran Brad Ausmus, reportedly signed a one-year deal worth $1 million on Wednesday with the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to FOXSports.com.

The Padres, who are about $5 million over their projected $40 million payroll, probably wouldn't -- or couldn't -- offer Ausmus a similar deal as the one he apparently agreed to with the Dodgers, as it might have been along the lines of the contract infielder David Eckstein ($850,000) signed last week.

So what now?

Towers indicated that he wanted to sign a catcher by the end of the week to help mentor and serve as a backup to Hundley, who impressed during his rookie season.

Ausmus, who makes his home in nearby Del Mar, Calif., was a player Towers talked too often during the offseason. The two are also friends.

Now it appears the Padres will have to look elsewhere or settle on using Eliezer Alfonzo, who agreed to a Minor League contract in December and received an invitation to Spring Training, as their primary backup.

Alfonzo has Major League experience with the Giants in 2006 and '07.

Either way, Hundley projects as a catcher who can handle the bulk of the catching duties.

Hundley hit .237 in 60 games, but showed some pop (five home runs), the ability to slow the opposition from running (he threw out 14 would-be base stealers) and a knack for handling a pitching staff after his July promotion from Triple-A Portland.

A year ago, the Padres felt very good about breaking camp with Josh Bard and Michael Barrett as their catching tandem. But Bard and Barrett were injured most of the season, playing in a combined 87 games.

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Bard and Barrett were essentially released following the season. Bard is now with the Red Sox, while Barrett has landed in Toronto after signing a Minor League deal.

Besides Hundley, the only other catcher on the Padres' 40-man roster is Jose Lobaton, who hasn't played about the Double-A level.

Corey Brock 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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