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Doumit eyes return to lineup

Doumit eyes return to Pirates

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ST. LOUIS -- After crouching to catch his first bullpen session Sunday since fracturing his left thumb, Ryan Doumit pronounced himself ready to come off the disabled list later this week.

"I feel days away," Doumit said. "I felt game ready catching in there."

Doumit caught Zach Duke's side session and reported jamming his thumb just once in what was the latest big test for his left hand. Encouragingly, though, the slight sting he felt after catching that pitch went away immediately.

For Doumit, Sunday's catching session marked the first time he had received high-velocity pitches since fracturing the thumb in St. Louis on May 13. The diagnosis initially called for four weeks of no activity, after which Doumit was expected to begin rehab work. However, a quicker-than-expected recovery has Doumit poised to return well before those initial estimates.

Doumit is scheduled to catch Paul Maholm's bullpen session on Monday, and said that, if all goes well there, he'd lobby to return to play in the Pirates' upcoming series against Houston.

However, manager John Russell's comments prior to Sunday's game suggested that a little more time may be in order before Doumit is reinstated from the disabled list. That would include the possibility of playing a few Minor League rehabilitation games, an option that Bucs general manager Neal Huntington and Russell have been discussing in recent days.

"I think the safest route is sending him out for a couple games anyway to make sure the catching is OK and get him a few at-bats," Russell said. "It's been talked about. I don't know which direction we'll be going."

Doumit, however, was quite firm in his opinion on the issue.

"I would rather not," he said when asked if he would consider playing in a few Minor League games before returning to the field for the Pirates. "I would rather just jump into it. I feel like I've taken enough [hitting] reps here that I am not too far out of it. If I have a say in it, I hope I don't have to do it."

Doumit is wearing a splint on the thumb and plans to continue using it for the remainder of the season.

Doumit has been participating in batting practice -- hitting from the left-side only -- for days now, and has reported doing so pain-free.

Over the last couple of days, the Pirates backstop has tested his thumb from the right side of the plate, hitting off soft toss and a tee, which he did again on Sunday. He has yet to hit right-handed during batting practice since it calls for more pressure to be put on his left thumb.

Though Doumit will likely start taking batting practice right-handed in the next few days, neither he nor Russell foresaw a situation where Doumit would need to hit exclusively from the left side when he first makes his return.

"If the situation called for it," Doumit said, "I would definitely go up there right-handed."

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

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