Doumit, not Paulino, goes in opener
Matchups played major role in Bucs' decision about catcher
ATLANTA -- Manager John Russell hesitated to put a label on his catching situation all spring, only saying that Ronny Paulino would remain as the Pirates' starting catcher.
However, Paulino and Ryan Doumit arrived in the visiting clubhouse on Monday and found the Opening Day lineup card with Doumit's name -- not Paulino's -- listed in the batting order. And with that, Monday's season opener provided a little more clarity into how the Pirates intend to use their two catchers.
In explaining his decision to go with Doumit behind the plate on Monday, Russell described not a potential platoon situation, but a case in which he will determine which catcher he uses primarily on a matchup basis.
"I feel like we have a pretty good tandem at catcher," Russell said. "It's nothing against Ronny, but what we're going to do every night is put the best lineup out there that we feel like gives us the best chance that night. I think it's going to be a good situation for both of them."
It also means that Doumit is primed to see significant playing time this season.
Asked if he was surprised not to see his name in the starting lineup, Paulino had very little to say.
"I'm kind of surprised," Paulino said. "I guess because last year, I did pretty well against lefties."
Paulino hit lefties at a .407 clip last season. Doumit, contrastingly, had a .246 average against southpaws. But against Braves starter Tom Glavine, Russell said he believed Doumit's patient plate approach fared better than Paulino's, making him the natural choice to hit against the Atlanta lefty.
"He's been very patient in Spring Training," Russell said of Doumit. "He's cut down on his very aggressive approach. From what I've seen in Spring Training at how both are swinging the bat, I just felt like Ryan had a better approach."
Coming into Monday's game, Paulino was 0-for-5 and Doumit was 1-for-6 against Glavine for their careers.
For Doumit, the chance to see an increase in playing time will give him the outlet to prove that he is not the injury-prone, defensively unsound catcher that he has often been labeled as. Up to this point, he's never seen consistent playing time behind the plate -- partly because he struggled to stay healthy, partly because Paulino had him blocked.
"I'm out to prove a lot of people wrong," Doumit said. "There have been a lot of things said about me in regards to my defense, and I'm out to silence a lot of the critics.
"Catching is the type of position where you can't be truly good at it unless you're back there on a consistent basis. I think the more opportunities I get back there, the better I'm going to be."
Pirates management made it no secret that it was increasingly impressed with Doumit's production and improvements this spring. He made strides defensively, and finding a way to get his bat into the lineup was a goal that management has had for a while now.
And, as a result of the work, Doumit found himself in position to make the first Opening Day start of his career.
"It's great," Doumit said. "It's every player's dream to be in the Opening Day starting lineup. Like I said, it certainly wasn't expected on my part. It's a great feeling."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.