The team has been trying to trade him most of the offseason. Talks heated up during the winter meetings in early December, then died down.
But, thanks to a key vacancy in Houston, the right opportunity might finally be at hand: The Astros just lost catcher Jason Castro to right knee surgery and need an everyday player. Doumit is not great defensively, but his pull power from either side of the plate would be a fine fit for Minute Maid Park.
"Things kind of die in terms of most conversations when you get into February, and they kind of pick back up again with a couple weeks left of spring games," general manager Neal Huntington said last week. "Right now, it's a very quiet period for most clubs."
The Pirates have denied being motivated by money in shopping Doumit, but he is set to make $5.1 million for an undefined bench role, perhaps backing up catcher Chris Snyder, first baseman Lyle Overbay and right fielders Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones. That is an awfully big chunk of a $45 million payroll to invest in a spare part.
Most likely, the Pirates' motivation in waiting this long is, as Huntington has bluntly said of Doumit, "We're not just going to give him away." They wanted to wait for a team to have a genuine need, such as the one just created in Houston.
Doumit has been the good soldier so far -- "I'm just here to do my job," he said on the opening day of spring training -- but be sure that he would welcome a change of scenery, if only because of his staunch belief that he can continue to be a starting catcher. Doumit, who will turn 30 in April, batted .251 with 13 home runs and 45 RBI last season, missing much of the season to the latest in a series of concussions.
LHP Joe Beimel had a scare as the calendar turned to March and he felt pain in his forearm, but an MRI cleared him of ligament damage and he continued his throwing program on the side. Still, Beimel being sidelined served as a stark reminder of the Pirates' lack of left-handed depth in the bullpen. He currently is the only reliable option.
RHP Evan Meek got a clean bill after straining his calf and was expected to resume pitching in games within a few days. Also on the mend is SS Ronny Cedeno after missing a game to a sore finger on his right hand after it was struck by a groundball March 3.
Spring training had its first taste of controversy when LHP Scott Olsen told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he wants no part of pitching in the bullpen. "They didn't bring me in here to be a bullpen guy," Olsen said. "They want to do that, we're going to have to have a conversation about it, and we haven't had that conversation." Olsen, always something of a loose cannon, was signed as a free agent and was told he would compete for the fifth-starter job. But no promises were made, GM Neal Huntington said, and Olsen could work in relief.
3B Pedro Alvarez, plagued by talk of his subpar conditioning and the chance that the Pirates will draft Rice 3B Anthony Rendon this summer, remains adamant that he wants to stay at his natural position. "All I know is that I'm a third baseman, and that's what I'm working for," Alvarez said. "That's where I'm working to stay the rest of my career. I plan to get better."
RHP Charlie Morton, the favorite for the fifth-starter spot, reiterated that former pitching coach Joe Kerrigan took away his sinker last year because the Pirates preferred to have him focus on locating his four-seam fastball. His sinker has looked good in the early going this spring. Asked after one spring start why he hadn't used the sinker previously, Morton replied, "Uh, I wasn't throwing it. I threw it in '08 and '09 and last year we just … we scrapped it." He then looked upward and shrugged his shoulders.
By The Numbers:
25—Pitches, including 19 strikes, Charlie Morton needed to coast through three scoreless innings March 3.
Quote To Note:
"They didn't bring me in here to be a bullpen guy. They want to do that, we're going to have to have a conversation."
—LHP Scott Olsen