By John Perrotto
The Pirates have already used six catchers in a season that is not yet half finished. And they may be using even more guys behind the plate before the end of 2011.
Mike McKenry became catcher No. 6 on Monday night, a day after being acquired from the Boston Red Sox’s organization in a trade for a player to be named or cash. McKenry had been splitting time behind the plate at Class AAA Pawtucket with Luis Exposito.
McKendry went 0-for-3 in a 3-1 victory over the New York Mets at PNC Park as the Pirates used a sixth catcher for the first time since 1988. That season, Mike LaValliere, Junior Ortiz, Tom Prince, Ruben Rodriguez, Mike Diaz and Dave Hostetler all wore the catching gear.
General manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle both acknowledged Monday that the search for catching help continues.
Starting catcher Chris Snyder is done for the season after undergoing back surgery last week and Ryan Doumit is likely out through the end of July with a fractured ankle. Class AAA Indianapolis starter Jason Jarmamillo is also expected to be sidelined through at least the end of this month with elbow tendinitis.
The Pirates were down to their fourth-string and fifth-string catchers last week with Dusty Brown and Wyatt Toregas up from Indianapolis to take the places of Snyder and Doumit. The Pirates designated Toregas for assignment after he went 0-for-4 on the heels of a 1-for-29 performance at Indianapolis.
The Pirates would prefer to find a veteran catcher to pair with either Brown or McKenry until Doumit returns then serve as the backup for the remainder of the season.
“We’ve talked to every team in both leagues but other teams are like sharks smelling blood,” Hurdle said. “They know we have a weakness at the catcher and they’re attacking. There’s been some serious sticker shock on the prices of some catchers.”
According to major-league sources, the Pirates have shown the most interest in the Chicago Cubs’ Koyie Hill, San Diego’s Rob Johnson, Tampa Bay’s Kelly Shoppach and the Los Angeles Angels’ Bobby Wilson. Hill and Johnson are considered above-average defensively.
Hill, 32, is a career .217 hitter in 279 games and is batting .239 with one home run and seven RBIs in 23 games this season. Johnson, 27, has hit just. 174 with one homer and five RBIs in 36 games and has a .196 lifetime average in .197 games.
Huntington has long had an interest in acquiring Shoppach, who is hitting just .181 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 36 games this year. Shoppach, 31, has a .230 lifetime average in 450 games but hit 21 home runs for Cleveland in 2008 after nearly being traded to the Pirates the previous winter.
Wilson, 28, rarely plays as he is third on the Angels’ catching depth chart behind Hank Conger and Jeff Mathis and is hitting .217 in 14 games. For his career, Wilson has hit .223 in 73 games.