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Pirates dealt another blow behind the plate

| Friday, June 10, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, catcher Ryan Doumit looked like a trading chip for the Pirates.

Now, the sellers are buyers.

With Chris Snyder undergoing surgery Friday on a herniated disc in his lower back, and the Pirates down to a pair of reserve Triple-A catchers, manager Clint Hurdle said it's time to look outside the organization for a quality backstop.

"Yes," he said. "But wanting to go outside and having the ability to make something happen are two different things."

So, for now, Dusty Brown and newly promoted Wyatt Toregas, who have a combined 39 games of major league experience, will handle the Pirates' catching chores.

"We'll see how it goes," Hurdle said. "The game is going to let us know."

Snyder, who was placed on the 15-day DL, is sidelined indefinitely after aggravating his lower back sliding into second base Wednesday. Surgery on the L5-S1 disc will typically keep a patient away from work for 4 to 6 weeks, according to medical websites.

Doumit (ankle) is out until at least late July.

It doesn't end there. The Pirates' third-string catcher, Jason Jaramillo (elbow), is on the Triple-A disabled list and just started rehabbing in Bradenton, Fla. He is likely at least two weeks away from returning.

One option is Jake Fox, designated for assignment by the Orioles last week. About a dozen teams have a better waiver spot than the Pirates, who should learn Friday if the claim was awarded.

Fox, 28, hit .231 with 20 homers and 71 RBI in four seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Oakland A's and Orioles. In his lone season in the NL, Fox hit .259 with 11 home runs and 44 RBI with the Cubs in 2007.

Whoever catches for the Pirates, they won't replace a Doumit-Snyder duo at the plate.

Brown and Toregas, who was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday, have combined for three extra-base hits in their major-league careers. Toregas was batting .034 (1 for 29) with eight strikeouts in Indianapolis. In his only previous big-league stint, he hit .176 in 19 games with the Cleveland Indians in '09.

"I do have the jitters," he said. "But they are not the same. I think this time I have a better idea of what's coming my way."

Most importantly, the club wants quality defense and handlers of a pitching staff that ranks fifth in the NL.

"Our job is to make sure the pitching staff doesn't skip a beat," Brown said. "I think we will be able to do that."

Charlie Morton, who starts Friday against the Mets, said the new catchers will get a head start receiving one of the NL's top staffs.

"I think as a pitching staff we've identified what's working," he said. "It's not going to be too tough to tell a catcher what's been working, and it's not going to be too tough for them to see what's working. I think we will be just fine."

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