Ausmus says he'll retire after season

LOS ANGELES -- Confirming what was already widely assumed, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus said after Saturday's 3-2 victory over the New York Mets that he will retire after the season, bringing an end to a 17-year career in the majors that saw him win three Gold Glove awards at baseball's most physically demanding position.

In Ausmus' typically understated way, his so-called "announcement'' was nothing more than an answer to a reporter's question. It came immediately after he played in his first game in more than three months, catching the first 12 innings of the 13-inning marathon four days after being activated from the 60-day disabled list.

"This year is it,'' Ausmus said.

Ausmus had played in just one previous game this season, on April 8 at Pittsburgh. He went onto the 15-day DL with back soreness two days later and learned shortly thereafter that he would need a surgical procedure that would sideline him for at least three months, leading to questions of why the seldom-used, 41-year-old backup to Russell Martin didn't just retire immediately instead of going through a grueling rehabilitation process in what everyone assumed would be his final season as a player anyway.

Ausmus' answer then was the same as it is now.

"I signed a contract,'' he reiterated on Saturday. "It was my job to get back on the field and do it as quickly as possible, hopefully without having any setbacks.''

Ausmus, who is in his second season with the Dodgers, has a one-year, $1 million contract, including the $150,000 buyout on a $1 million mutual option for next season that will now go unused.

Ausmus said he plans to take next year off and take a couple of summer vacations with his family, meaning he won't immediately start working toward what many longtime observers feel is an inevitable career as a big league manager.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre started Ausmus on Saturday so Martin could rest during a day game after a night game. Ausmus probably won't catch more than once a week the rest of the season. He said he experienced no physical issues during the game.

"I felt good,'' he said. "I can't lie to you, my legs did get a little tired in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings, but it was nothing I can't play through. That would have been the case even if I had been healthy all year.''

Ausmus went 1-for-4 at the plate, driving in Blake DeWitt with a two-out single up the middle in the fourth inning off Mike Pelfrey for his first RBI of the season.

Originally drafted by the New York Yankees out of Cheshire (Conn.) High School in the 48th round in 1987, Ausmus attended Dartmouth while playing in the minors and earned a degree in government. Through Saturday, he has caught 1,919 games in the majors. He currently lives with his family in the Del Mar area.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.