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Pena returns to Tigers on Minors deal

Detroit also signs Kozma, Aumont on Minor League contracts
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The Tigers will have another familiar face behind a catching mask when they open Spring Training next month. Brayan Pena, a catcher on Detroit's 2013 American League Central division-winning team, is returning on a Minor League contract with a non-roster invite to Spring Training.

The Tigers also signed infielder Pete Kozma to a Minor League deal with a non-roster invite. The team officially announced both agreements on Tuesday, along with Minors contracts for right-handers Phillippe Aumont and Orbandy Rodriguez, left-hander Liarvis Breto and outfielder Herlis Rodriguez.

DETROIT -- The Tigers will have another familiar face behind a catching mask when they open Spring Training next month. Brayan Pena, a catcher on Detroit's 2013 American League Central division-winning team, is returning on a Minor League contract with a non-roster invite to Spring Training.

The Tigers also signed infielder Pete Kozma to a Minor League deal with a non-roster invite. The team officially announced both agreements on Tuesday, along with Minors contracts for right-handers Phillippe Aumont and Orbandy Rodriguez, left-hander Liarvis Breto and outfielder Herlis Rodriguez.

The 36-year-old Pena provides another veteran backstop in the system behind starter James McCann and backup John Hicks. Detroit signed Derek Norris to a Minor League deal with a non-roster invite earlier this offseason. Strong-armed prospect Grayson Greiner is also not far off, having spent last year at Double-A Erie before finishing at Triple-A Toledo.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Pena's RBI single cuts deficit to two runs

Most Tigers fans will remember Pena from his previous stint in Detroit, backing up Alex Avila while providing a decent switch-hitting bat. He hit .297 (68-for-229) that year with four home runs, 22 RBIs and a .713 OPS. He contributed an RBI single in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Red Sox, filling in for an injured Avila.

That season earned Pena a two-year deal with the Reds. He has bounced around since then, last catching in the Majors in 2016 with the Cardinals. He signed a Minors deal with the Royals last year and spent the season at Triple-A Omaha, hitting .274 (34-for-124) with 15 RBIs.

Kozma, who will turn 30 in April, is best known for his time as the Cardinals' starting shortstop in 2013, but he spent last year shuttling between the Majors and Minors as a utility infielder with the Yankees and Rangers. He's a .215 career hitter in 314 big league games to go with four home runs, 54 RBIs and a .567 OPS.

Video: TEX@DET: Kozma's solo jack extends the lead

Aumont's deal had been reported last month. The 11th-round pick in the 2007 Draft will try to climb back to the Majors after spending last year pitching for Ottawa in the independent Can-Am League. He posted a 5-8 record and 4.51 ERA in 17 starts, allowing 128 hits over 115 2/3 innings but striking out 103.

Like Aumont, the 24-year-old Breto pitched in the Can-Am League last year. He then went to Venezuela for winter ball and went 2-1 with a 2.87 ERA in 37 appearances for Anzoategui, striking out 17 over 15 2/3 innings.

Orbandy Rodriguez hasn't played organized ball in the U.S. since 2013, but he made an impression in five games of winter ball for Escogido in the Dominican League. The 29-year-old pitched 4 2/3 innings over five appearances, allowing two earned runs with three strikeouts.

Herlis Rodriguez comes from the Phillies organization, where the 23-year-old batted .249 (89-for-357) with 16 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs and 34 RBIs at three levels. He was a midseason All-Star in the Florida State League while at Class A Advanced Clearwater.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Brayan Pena