The Pittsburgh Pirates activated Ryan Doumit from the 15-day disabled list today, and demoted Erik Kratz to make room for Doumit on the 25-man roster. The move is somewhat surprising, as Kratz was the backup catcher to Chris Snyder, and the Pirates have said they want to get Doumit a lot of playing time, working out of right field, first base, and catching. The only other option to be demoted was Jeff Clement, who has gone 3-for-6 with two homers since being recalled. Argenis Diaz is the only middle infielder, and Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young are both out of options.
Doumit will serve as the backup catcher, but since Clement can catch in an emergency situation, the Pirates aren’t going to hesitate using Doumit off the bench. I’ve never really been a fan of the backup catcher role, as it is pretty much a wasted roster spot. You can’t use that player as a pinch hitter, in fear that your catcher gets injured later in the game, leaving you with no one to catch. I’ve always felt that the benefit of that extra hitter usually outweighs the small chance that your regular catcher would go down. Worst case scenario: your regular catcher goes down and you lose one game because of it.
The Pirates not only have Clement as an emergency catching option, but they also have Neil Walker for the role. Kratz will likely return once the rosters expand in September. As for Doumit, it’s important for him to get as much playing time as possible. He’s become a very expensive backup catcher, and even as a utility player in 2011 he will be costly. The Pirates can easily afford his price, but it’s not the best use of their funds. The Pirates need Doumit’s bat to come around the rest of the season. Then they could either use him in a platoon situation, perhaps in right field with Lastings Milledge, or deal him away in the off-season once he has more value.