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Kottaras, Lowe add depth to Tribe's system

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OAKLAND -- The Indians have entered uncharted waters by asking Carlos Santana to work as a backup catcher, third baseman and cleanup hitter to start this season. Under the circumstances, depth behind the plate is important right now for Cleveland.

Manager Terry Francona confirmed Monday that the club signed longtime backup catcher George Kottaras to a Minor League contract to help in that regard. Kottaras will head to Triple-A Columbus, but he is in a position to help Cleveland at some point.

"I don't know that we'd ever comment on potentially seeing a guy come up," said Francona, who managed Kottaras with the Red Sox in 2008-09. "That doesn't make any sense, but I have some history with George. He has kind of a potent left-handed bat and he's got some veteran experience. He's great in the clubhouse.

"Having George's experience was something we thought could help us. We wouldn't sign George to keep him in Triple-A all year. We don't know what's going to happen here, but, and he knows it, we didn't sign him to help Columbus win."

Kottaras has played in 295 games for four teams -- Boston, Milwaukee, Oakland and Kansas City -- in six Major League seasons, serving mostly in a reserve role. He has posted a .214/.324/.406 slash line in his big league career, but hit just .180/.349/.370 with five homers and 12 RBIs in 46 games for the Royals last season.

Francona also confirmed that right-handed reliever Mark Lowe has signed a Minor League contract with Cleveland and will join the Columbus roster, too. The 30-year-old Lowe has a 4.17 ERA in 264 games between stints with the Mariners, Rangers and Angels. This spring, Lowe allowed just one earned run with 12 strikeouts and one walk in 10 1/3 Grapefruit League innings with the Rays.

"He didn't make Tampa's team, but he had a really good spring," Francona said. "He looks healthy. He's a pretty good reliever. So, we'll let him go down there and pitch and you know we're going to need depth. We don't know who it'll be, but it's nice to have another arm."

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

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