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Molina inks two-year deal to return to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jose Molina will be back behind the plate for the Rays in 2014, as the team has signed him to a two-year, $4.5 million deal.

Molina, who had declared free agency before re-signing, will donate $40,000 to the Rays Baseball Foundation over the life of the contract.

Molina, 38, will be returning for his third season with the team. In the two previous seasons (201 games), he hit .228 with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs, but his bat is not why the Rays wanted him to return.

The Rays have long touted the veteran's strengths in run prevention, particularly how he handles pitchers and how he controls the running game.

"Jose does a lot of things behind the plate in terms of preparation," said Andrew Friedman, executive vice president of baseball operations. "His veteran experience and hand at helping our pitchers through the season is something that oftentimes the pitchers get all the credit for -- and rightfully so -- but I think that he has played a large role in the run-prevention side the last few years as well."

Molina set a career high by starting 87 games in 2013, breaking his previous high of 81 (2008). He hit .233 with two home runs and 18 RBIs.

In addition, he thwarted 17 of 73 basestealing attempts (23.3 percent), which was slightly above the Major League average of 23.1. He has a career caught-stealing percentage of 37.7, fourth among active catchers.

The signing means that the Rays will head to Spring Training with the tandem of Molina and Jose Lobaton earmarked to take care of the catching duties next season, and Chris Gimenez as the third option.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for

Tampa Bay Rays, Jose Molina