FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) – Ready to give their backup catchers a shot, the Boston Red Sox released Josh Bard on Wednesday, 2 months after signing the backup catcher.

Bard will receive $262,295 in termination pay rather than a $1.6 million salary this year. After Wednesday, players with non-guaranteed contracts put on waivers receive 45 days’ termination pay rather than 30.

General manager Theo Epstein said the move was made as a testament to the performance of the team’s other young catchers, especially George Kottaras, who spent last season at Triple-A Pawtucket and was a September call-up to Boston.

Kottaras will move into the backup role behind Jason Varitek. His, primary responsibility will be to catch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

“Our young catchers are doing a really good job in camp,” Epstein said. “George, in particular, did a nice job with Wakefield the other night. We like the way George is throwing. Hes throwing well. Once he showed he could handle Wake we decided that was the direction we were probably going to go in.”

Kottaras is scheduled to catch for Wakefield in a minor league game Thursday at the Red Sox’s player development complex.

“(It’s) his job to lose right now,” Epstein said. “We hope he continues to do a nice job and Dusty Brown’s having a good camp as well. This’ll get them some more time. We had to make this move now because we need George and Wake to work together and we need to make sure we know what we have, and prepare for the season.”

Bard played seven games with the Red Sox in 2006.

He was signed to catch Wakefield, but struggled and was traded to San Diego along with reliever Cla Meredith for catcher Doug Mirabelli.

Bard batted .202 with a homer and 16 RBIs in 178 at-bats for the Padres last season. His career batting average is .265, with 28 home runs and 168 RBIs in 431 games with the Indians, Red Sox and Padres.

He was hitting .429 in six major league appearances during spring training.

In other news, Right-hander Brad Penny pitched three scoreless innings in a minor league game against a Class A Minnesota Twins squad. He threw 41 pitches – 30 for strikes – and struck out four of the 11 batters he faced. He gave up one hit.

“I think today was significantly improved over his outing five days ago,” Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said. “I thought his arm strength and command of his fastball was improved. His velocity was improved over his previous time, which again is a benchmark, not an end-all. But I thought the definition to his pitches, getting up and down three times for the three innings today was primarily the goal to get him close to 45 pitches.”

Penny has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game. He was scratched from his March 4 start against Puerto Rico after shoulder fatigue cut short a bullpen session three days earlier.

Shoulder ailments last season limited him to 19 appearances, 17 starts, with a record of 6-9 and 6.27 ERA.

“I need to I build my pitch count up. It’s repetition, you know, pitching off of a mound to hitters,” Penny said.

“That’s where the mechanics come in, when you’re facing hitters, and your arm speed is where you need it to be. Bullpen always helps, but game speed, you can’t go out and practice that.”

Farrell said Penny is on track for his first spring training start March 23.

AP-ES-03-18-09 1811EDT

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