By John Perrotto
The man behind the mask, in so many ways, is going to be the key to the Pirates’ 2010 season. Switch-hitter catcher Ryan Doumit will again hit cleanup in what is one of the weakest batting orders in the major leagues.
While Doumit is far from the ideal No. 4 hitter, manager John Russell feels he is the closest thing to a proven run producer the Pirates have in a young lineup. Furthermore, Doumit is undoubtedly Russell’s favorite player.
Doumit’s 2009 season was basically ruined as he suffered a broken right wrist in April that kept him on the disabled list until July. He was dismal at the plate until hitting .329 in September and October to pull his final batting average up to .250 with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs in 280 at-bats.
Doumit has told reporters this spring that he is ready to take on a leadership role with the young club. That would be a 180-degree attitude from his attitude last season after the Pirates traded away most of their established players.
He was clearly upset and pouty throughout the month of August until accepting in September that his former teammates were gone and the Pirates were in the midst of a major rebuilding project.
The Pirates gambled by giving Doumit a three-year, $11.5-million contract prior to last season, knowing he has been hurt frequently throughout that career.
While the idea didn’t look too good in 2009, a strong rebound this season will give the Pirates a significant trading chip at the July 31 non-waiver deadline. They would seemingly get a decent haul of prospects in return for a rarity, a switch-hitting catcher with power.
Jason Jaramillo was one of a multitude of rookies with the Pirates last season and will again serve as Doumit’s backup.
Outside of hitting his first major-league home run off New York Mets ace left-hander Johan Santana, Jaramaillo did little to distinguish himself, though he could serve as a the starting catching bridge from Doumit, should be traded, to Tony Sanchez, the Pirates’ first-round draft pick last year who could be in the major leagues by 2011.