Notes: Slimmer Doumit eyes big year

Notes: Doumit eyes big year

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Ryan Doumit arrived at Spring Training this year intent on shedding the injury-prone label with which he had been branded after another season in which he couldn't avoid multiple trips to the disabled list.

Aided solely by a change in diet, Doumit dropped 15 pounds over the winter. His gym workouts and supplement intake didn't change, but what went into his body did. And as a result, he has turned a number of heads so far this spring.

"I knew last year that I was a few pounds overweight," said Doumit, who was listed at 220 pounds in last year's team media guide. "You don't want to carry around that excess weight, especially having the health issues that I've had in the previous years. This is a big year for me. I need to stay healthy."

Staying healthy has been a challenge that Doumit has fallen well short of meeting the last two years. In 2006, it was a nagging left hamstring that set him back at three different points in the season. Last year it was his hamstring, his wrist and his ankle.

But after taking the first three weeks off last October to let his sprained right ankle fully heal, Doumit began his offseason workout program and has arrived in Bradenton at full health. Not only that, but the 26-year-old catcher/right fielder is in what he called the best shape of his life.

Hopeful that the injuries can be avoided in this, the final year before Doumit becomes arbitration-eligible, his next challenge becomes finding a way to get on the field.

There's little question that Doumit has a spot on the Pirates' bench as the team's biggest bat in pinch-hitting situations. However, with Ronny Paulino having already been named the team's starting catcher and Xavier Nady cementing his place as the team's starting right fielder, Doumit is blocked in his attempt to see consistent time on the field.

He will continue to split time, taking reps both behind the plate and in the outfield, in preparation for whatever role he will need to fill.

"I'm in a situation where I have no control over playing time," said Doumit, who hit .274 with nine homers in 83 games last season. "I just have control over what I can take care of on the field and let the powers to be make the rest of the decisions."

Both manager John Russell and general manager Neal Huntington have expressed intrigue in Doumit's potential, as well as a desire to find ways to get his bat in the lineup on a fairly consistent basis. While Huntington stopped short of saying that the starting catching spot could be up for grabs this year, he did suggest that, even with Paulino in the mix, Doumit could still have a future for the Pirates behind home plate.

"Ronny Paulino is our starting catcher at this time, but as Ryan improves and shows us what he's capable of, it could be an interesting situation," Huntington said. "People like [Triple-A Indianapolis manager] Trent Jewett who have seen Ryan play, they felt that when Ryan was given the chance to catch every day, he showed significant signs of progress. We want to see what progress Ryan can make."

Having focused solely on catching during these opening days of camp, Doumit has already benefited from Russell's presence. Russell, a former Major League catcher, has given Doumit significant personalized attention, including working solely with him on Monday on receiving balls and blocking home plate after the rest of the squad had gone back to the clubhouse.

That's also evidence of a rejuvenation in Doumit's attitude. Any questions of his effort should be put to rest.

"I want at-bats -- I want to contribute," he said. "I want to be a part of this team. And given the opportunity and staying healthy, I think I can be a big part of it. Wherever it may be, whether right field, catcher, I'll be ready."

Sights and sounds: With no bullpen sessions scheduled, Tuesday's on-field workouts were completed well before noon ET. Half of the pitchers will return to the mound on Wednesday, when they will be throwing to hitters for the first time this spring. As a result, Tuesday's schedule consisted entirely of fielding drills and conditioning.

While pitchers continued in their fifth straight day of workouts, the influx of position players arriving in Bradenton continued. After leaving California late Monday on a redeye flight, shortstop Jack Wilson arrived in Bradenton at 5 a.m. ET on Tuesday. He made his way to Pirate City a few hours later and spent much of the day catching up with teammates and undergoing his physical.

Wilson was joined soon after by Adam LaRoche, who drove to Bradenton on Monday night after playing a few rounds of golf in Orlando with some of his former Atlanta teammates. Outfielders Jason Bay and Nady also showed up at Pirate City on Tuesday after on-field workouts had ended.

After a number of hitters took rounds of batting practice and headed back inside, LaRoche pulled Freddy Sanchez and Wilson aside and the three returned to the diamond to field some ground balls on the infield.

Bucks for a Buc: Wearing his camouflaged ball cap, LaRoche arrived in camp fresh off another offseason of deer hunting in Kansas, Missouri and even Texas over the winter.

Even there, however, LaRoche couldn't escape the cameras. While in Texas, the Pirates first baseman spent time at the Texas ranch of Braves third baseman and former teammate Chipper Jones, where the two joined Nationals outfielder Ryan Langerhans and Willie Robertson in filming a hunting video.

That footage is being made into a "Buck Commander" DVD which is expected to be released in June. The group has also been approached about filming a TV series next winter. It would consist of approximately 15 hunting episodes.

Bucs bits: The Pirates' in-game entertainment crew is working this week to film each player for the scoreboard features that fans enjoy at PNC Park during the year. Each player is spending about 20 minutes with a camera crew. ... Damaso Marte (flu) was up and walking around on Tuesday, but still did not participate in on-field activity. ... Any positions players not already in Bradenton must arrive by the end of the day Tuesday. Full-squad workouts begin on Wednesday with a team meeting at 9 a.m. ET.

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