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Jaramillo won't be handed backup role

Bucs' backup catcher role up for grabs

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The competition to back up catcher Ryan Doumit seems like a battle that includes Jason Jaramillo and then everyone else. But Pirates manager John Russell took a moment on Saturday to clarify that it is indeed a competition.

Jaramillo certainly comes in as the favorite after performing well in the role in 2009. But the Pirates are giving Luke Carlin and Erik Kratz a look this spring, too. Carlin, who has 46 Major League appearances under his belt, would seem the most likely to challenge Jaramillo.

This is the second year that Jaramillo has arrived at Spring Training in competition for a roster spot. However, with a year of big league experience under his belt, his position is a bit improved. Not only does he have the upper hand for winning a place on the team, but Jaramillo also now has confidence in his abilities to stick at the Major League level.

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"I just want to do everything to the best of my abilities this spring and really let the chips fall where they may," Jaramillo said. "I'm going to do everything I can to continue to impress people in this organization to show that I can be here. I feel like once you stop feeling like you have to earn it, you lose that little bit of edge. I'm going to continue to show that I belong here."

Jaramillo established himself last season after beating out Robinzon Diaz for a place on the Bucs' Opening Day roster. He was thrust into a heavier-than-anticipated workload early when Doumit when down with a broken wrist, and Jaramillo fared well, by all accounts.

His production at the plate -- a .252 average, 14 doubles, three homers and 26 RBIs in 63 games -- was on par with expectations. But it was Jaramillo's work behind the plate and the rapport he developed with the pitching staff that especially earned praise.

"JJ did a nice job last year," Russell said. "That obviously puts him in a good position. But he understands that we just can't give it to him. He's been working hard, and I don't see him stopping that in Spring Training. Being there and doing it and doing a nice job last year, that's going to be good for him."

The development process is continuing, and Jaramillo cites the need to immerse himself in information and scouting reports as one of the key areas targeted for improvement. He said that he also believes there's more potential with his bat, though it's hard to expect consistency, of course, if he's catching just about once a week.

"Working well with pitching staffs really got me to this level," Jaramillo said. "I want to continue to be that type of catcher. That's the biggest part of my game, and I want to grow that way."

As for the other candidates, Carlin and Kratz are both coming off impressive seasons at the Triple-A level. Carlin, who was in Arizona's system, hit .321 with 35 RBIs in 72 games with Reno and threw out 36 percent of runners attempting to steal against him. He appeared in 10 games for the D-backs as well.

Kratz earned International League midseason and postseason All-Star honors in his first full year at the Triple-A level. Kratz finished the year with a .273 average, 41 extra-base hits and 43 RBIs.

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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