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11/15/10 7:53 PM EST

Catcher Hernandez re-signs with Reds

Veteran returns to form impressive hitting backstop tandem

CINCINNATI -- A successful Reds catching tandem was assured of remaining intact for another season after veteran Ramon Hernandez was re-signed to a one-year, $3 million contract on Monday.

Hernandez caught a team-high 85 games last season for the National League Central champions, but split much of the duties behind the plate with Ryan Hanigan. They, along with third catcher Corky Miller, helped Reds catchers lead the NL at their position with a .296 average and 168 hits.

In 97 games this past season, Hernandez batted .297 with seven home runs and 48 RBIs.

This is the second time in as many offseasons that Hernandez has re-signed with Cincinnati. His return wasn't too stunning since the desire was mutual on both sides.

"I wanted to come back," Hernandez said by phone from his home in South Florida. "We've got a great group of guys, a great pitching staff and I like to be around good people. I can trust them and they are loyal."

Hernandez caught 14-of-45 runners attempting to steal in 2010, and the pitching staff had a 4.80 ERA in the games he started behind the plate. Splitting time with Hanigan enabled Hernandez to preserve an often achy left knee. He did miss nine games in July while on the disabled list with inflammation on the same knee that required surgery in 2009.

After coming off the DL, Hernandez batted .311 over his final 40 games.

This new contract is the same as the deal Hernandez signed exactly a year ago on Nov. 16, 2009. He became a free agent earlier this month because his $3.25 million vesting option for 2011 was only guaranteed had he played 120 games.

"We wanted to provide our young pitching staff with some continuity. We felt all of our pitchers were comfortable pitching to Ramon," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said in a statement. "We also like his production at the plate. Our catchers were very solid last year offensively."

Hernandez, 34, was originally acquired from the Orioles in a December 2008 trade for utility player Ryan Freel and two Minor League players.

By returning for one year, Hernandez seems to provide a bridge for the organization as it grooms younger prospects on their way up. Devin Mesoraco, the Reds' first-round Draft pick in 2007, had a strong 2010 season and reached Triple-A. The first-round pick of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft was another catcher in Yasmani Grandal.

"Anyone wants more than one year, but it is what it is," Hernandez said. "I didn't want to bounce around from team to team. I like Cincinnati. At least I am back next year. It's the same [money]. I'm happy with what I've got and back with the team. We all know each other. We know what it takes to be a winning team. We got a taste and know what we have to do to get to the next level."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.