ST. PETERSBURG -- The Pirates cut backup catchers Michel Hernandez and Raul Chavez on Saturday morning, essentially finalizing the team's decision not to carry a third catcher to start the season.
The possibility remained that, if the team wanted to have the flexibility of using Ryan Doumit as a backup in right field and at first base, the Pirates would carry another catcher as a third backup behind Paulino and Doumit.
However, Hernandez and Chavez, non-roster invitees who were reassigned to the Minors, were the only other catchers left in camp.
Now, with just Paulino and Doumit still with the Major League club, the question changes to how the team plans to divvy up playing time between them. At this point, neither manager John Russell nor general manager Neal Huntington has announced how they intend to use the two backstops during the season.
Paulino entered Spring Training as the team's starting catcher, knowing that Doumit could be ready to challenge him for playing time. Doumit arrived in Bradenton, Fla., 15 pounds leaner, and by the end of the few weeks of camp, management began to back down slightly from its insistence that Paulino would catch every day.
While the Pirates haven't yet suggested that they are going to platoon Doumit and Paulino at the position, it is safe to assume that Doumit will be seeing significantly more time than a normal backup typically would.
"We've seen encouraging signs from Ryan that he can be more than just that backup catcher who can catch 20 to 30 games," Huntington said last week. "We're not ready to say that it's a final decision yet, but we are definitely encouraged from where we are [now]."
In 13 Grapefruit League games, Doumit is hitting .257 with two homers and seven RBIs. Paulino, in comparison, is hitting .176 with two RBIs in 12 games this spring.
The Pirates' decision to carry just two catchers may bode well for Doug Mientkiewicz's chances to make the club. Though Mientkiewicz has been working to show his versatility in the infield and outfield, if the Pirates offer him a spot on the 25-man roster, he would be able to serve as an emergency catcher.
Mientkiewicz has never caught in the Majors but was drafted as a catcher and played behind the plate in the Minors.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.