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BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates expected a competition for the starting catcher's


Published: Mon, March 13, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates expected a competition for the starting catcher's job.
So far, it's been no contest.
Ryan Doumit, who will turn 25 next month, is entering his first full season in the majors and is batting .333 with two home runs and five RBIs. And both of those home runs were mammoth shots pulled to right field.
In stark contrast, veteran Humberto Cota did not have a hit while walking three times in 10 plate appearances before Pittsburgh's exhibition Saturday against the Boston Red Sox. He also had a throwing error.
Management's projection entering spring training was that Doumit could catch 100 games and Cota 62, or some similar breakdown. But the Pirates are a team in need of offense all through the lineup, and they're not likely to ignore a switch-hitter with power to all fields who adequately handles his defensive duties.
"We have three good catchers," manager Jim Tracy said, noting prospect Ronny Paulino. "Our attitude is we're looking forward to seeing what they can do."
Doumit showed intriguing but inconsistent offense as a rookie last year. He batted .177 in the first two months after his June promotion, but his .364 mark in August was best in the majors among rookies. He wound up at .255 with six home runs and 35 RBIs in 75 games.
"I thought I had the world in my hand when I got called up," Doumit said. "I needed that. I needed to be put in my place, and it was a good learning experience. Now, I know how to cope with failure. I know how to make the adjustments I need to be successful this year."
Much of Doumit's focus was his defense, which was not considered on par with his bat in the minors. But team officials no longer seem to mention it much, as he has improved in all areas.
Doumit's approach is that the Pirates are not leaning toward the prospect over the veteran.
"I don't think the starting job is going to be handed to me," he said. "Cota's a great catcher, and I'm sure he feels the same way about wanting to be the everyday catcher. So, we're going to compete for it, and may the best man win."


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