A few days after admitting he used human growth hormone, Gary Bennett signed a free-agent contract yesterday to replace Mike Lieberthal as the Los Angeles Dodgers' backup catcher behind All-Star Russell Martin.

Bennett, who played behind Lieberthal with the Phillies from 1995 to 2001, was among 85 players implicated last week in the Mitchell Report. He later told the Washington Post: "As far as the report is concerned to me, it's accurate."

Bennett, 35, played 59 games for St. Louis last season, batting .252 with two homers and 17 RBI.

The Mitchell Report said Bennett bought two kits of HGH from former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski in 2003. Bennett played for San Diego then, and told the Post he was trying to recover from a sprained right knee when he used HGH.

"Obviously, it was a stupid decision," Bennett told the Post.

Bennett signed a 1-year, $875,000 deal with the Dodgers. That is $275,000 less than Lieberthal made while batting .234 with one RBI in 77 at-bats. Lieberthal, also 35, is a free agent after the Dodgers declined to pick up his option for 2008.

In other steroid-related news:

* Former major league infielder Fernando Vina admitted using human growth hormone in 2003 as he attempted to heal from knee and hamstring injuries while with St. Louis. Vina, now an ESPN baseball analyst, was named in the Mitchell Report.

* Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd met with baseball officials to discuss his use of human growth hormone. It's uncertain whether Byrd will face any discipline from the commissioner's office or when a potential punishment might be handed down. Among those at the meeting were Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, and Michael Weiner, general counsel for the players association.

Before Game 7 of the AL Championship Series in Boston, Byrd acknowledged taking HGH after the San Francisco Chronicle reported he spent nearly $25,000 on the banned drug and syringes from 2002 to '05. He said he took HGH for a medical condition and did so only under a doctor's supervision. Byrd said baseball officials knew he had been taking the drug, which he said he often stored in clubhouse refrigerators.

Noteworthy

* As expected, closer Mariano Rivera finalized his $45 million, 3-year contract with the Yankees.

* Catcher Javy Lopez, 37, agreed to a minor league contract with Atlanta, his team from 1992 to 2003. He was out of the majors this year after he was cut by Colorado in spring training. *