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06/17/09 8:10 PM ET

Jaramillo, Diaz seizing the opportunity

With Doumit down, young duo impressing Bucs with play

MINNEAPOLIS -- For all that the Pirates expected to lose in not having catcher Ryan Doumit behind the plate and in the cleanup spot for the past two months, the club could have only hoped that there would be some benefits as well.

Certainly, the Pirates weren't expecting the offensive production they've received from replacements Jason Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz, who have combined to hit .290 in the 52 games since Doumit's wrist injury entering Wednesday. But what about defensively, especially with Diaz?

The Pirates' decision to keep Jaramillo and not Diaz on the roster out of Spring Training was primarily out of defensive concerns. Jaramillo was more polished behind the plate, while Diaz had the offensive potential but created defensive questions.

"He's gotten a lot better," manager John Russell said. "Robinzon has really gotten a feel for what we wanted him to do. He still has his moments where he gets a little shaky. But for the most part, being a young catcher, he's done a great job."

As he did before Wednesday's game, Diaz often takes the field hours before the game for extra defensive practice. On Wednesday, the focus was throwing runners out. Other days, it's blocking pitches or making improvements in receiving pitches.

Diaz has made 20 of the 52 starts with Doumit out. Opponents have been running on him fairly regularly and quite successfully, having stolen 14 bases in 17 attempts entering Wednesday.

In general, pitchers have praised Jaramillo's work behind the plate more often than they have cited Diaz's. That said, it is interesting to note that the staff has actually done better, collectively, with Diaz catching. Pitchers have a combined 4.94 ERA when Jaramillo is behind the plate, while the mark drops to 3.74 with Diaz as the backstop.

"It's a learning experience for both of them, but I think Robinzon has made some good strides," Russell said. "It's not that easy when you haven't caught at the Major League level to come in. The more games you catch, the more situations come up that you aren't really prepared for or used to playing in."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.