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David O'Brien

Will Braves’ Doumit catch, or won’t he?

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Braves GM Frank Wren was presumably enjoying a coffee and reading the Sunday paper when this AJC writer contacted him to ask if Wren had heard about the comment by Twins infielder Brian Dozier at a weekend FanFest in Minneapolis.

Ryan Doumit spent seven seasons for the Pirates before playing the past two with Minnesota in the AL.

Ryan Doumit spent seven seasons for the Pirates before playing the past two with Minnesota in the AL.

Dozier had casually mentioned to a Twins reporter that ex-teammate Ryan Doumit had decided not to catch anymore after an August concussion, which wasn’t the first concussion that Doumit suffered in his career.

Now, if true about him not catching, this would be problematic for the Braves, who traded for Doumit on Dec. 18 primarily because of the catcher part of the job experience — catcher/first base/right field/DH – on his resume.

By late Sunday afternoon, I got the answer I had anticipated: Dozier’s comment was untrue. This according to Doumit’s agent, Paul Cobbe.

Wren said at the time of the trade that Doumit would give the Braves the three-catcher arrangement like they had for most of last season, enabling manager Fredi Gonzalez to pinch-hit catchers Evan Gattis or Gerald Laird when they weren’t behind the plate.

With seven-time All-Star Brian McCann having left this winter as a free agent – five years, $85 million from the New Yawk Yankees, and the thought of the Georgia native in pinstripes still makes many Braves fans cringe – the Braves were down to two experienced catchers, and made it a priority to get another.

When they had only two catchers on the roster previous years, the Braves almost never pinch-hit with a catcher for concern over being shorthanded if they did and the other catcher got hurt in the late innings. Gonzalez liked the versatility he had with three catchers last season, and the idea of keeping Gattis’ bat in the lineup more even when he wasn’t catching.

Which brought them to the Twins and Doumit, who is a .268 career hitter with a .329 OBP and 99 homers in nine seasons with Pittsburgh and Minnesota, and has double-digit homers in five of the past six seasons including 13 or more four times.

To get him, the Braves traded lefty pitching prospect Sean Gilmartin, a 2011 first-round draft pick. Gilmartin, 23, had stalled a bit and missed time with a shoulder strain last season in Triple-A, and he’d been surpassed by a few other pitching prospects on the organizational ladder. The Braves traded from a position of strength.

Doumit, 32, is coming off a season in which he hit just .247 with a .314 OBP, although he did have 28 doubles and 14 homers in 485 at-bats over 135 games. He hit a solid .290 with a .346 OBP in 145 at-bats against lefties.

But getting back to this report by St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Mike Berardino, who posted video of Dozier making the comment Saturday — about Doumit deciding, after talking it over with his family, that catching would be too risky and he wasn’t going to do it anymore.

Wren said when I contacted him earlier today that he hadn’t spoken to Doumit and wouldn’t have any comment at this time. Presumably, after the brief reply I got from Doumit’s agent, Dozier’s statement was inaccurate and the Braves proceed as planned with Doumit as part of a three-catcher setup.

Dozier’s comment was also contrary to what Doumit himself said in mid-September, after he and the Twins decided not to have him catch any more during the 2013 season because it wasn’t worth the risk of having another concussion so soon, after the one he sustained Aug. 4 from a foul tip off his facemask.

Doumit said at that time that he “absolutely” planned to catch again in 2014, but just didn’t want to risk another concussion in September – the Twins had long since been eliminated from playoff contention – and having to spend the offseason recovering from it.

Twins GM Terry Ryan said on Sunday, when asked about Dozier’s comment, that he didn’t know anything about it and that Doumit “was available” to catch in September and that nothing had been said to Ryan about him not catching prior to the trade with the Braves.

Doumit is set to make $3.5 million this season in the final year of a three-year, $10 million contract. Suffice to say, his future earning potential could be diminished if he no longer was available to catch.

Of Doumit’s 639 career starts in the majors, 502 have been at catcher. He’s started 105 games in the outfield (89 in right, 16 in left) and 32 games at first base. In his two American League seasons with the Twins, he also started 48 games as DH 2012 and 47 in 2013.

A few days after taking the foul tip off his mask in August, Doumit felt dizzy and nauseous and asked to be taken out of an Aug. 7 game on a hot night in Kansas City.

By the way, Doumit looks a lot like a certain Braves pitcher, don't you think? A lefty reliever?

By the way, Doumit looks a lot like a certain Braves pitcher, don’t you think? A lefty reliever?

He went on the seven-day concussion DL, missed eight games, then upon returning he caught the entire game in his third game back Aug. 18. He also caught Also caught consecutive games – entire games — Aug. 20-21 in his fifth and sixth games back, and again caught Aug. 25 and Aug. 27.

Doumit was the starting DH or right fielder RF in the other games while starting in 11 consecutive games, in all, after returning from the DL. To repeat, he played 11 consecutive games and caught five entire games during that stretch upon returning from the concussion DL.

But after catching again on Aug. 29, he didn’t get behind the plate again the rest of the season.

He was a pinch-hitter Sept. 2-3 and Sept. 6-7, and played only a couple of innings in the field (right field, after PHing) in September until Sept, 15, when he started a game in right field and hit his 13th homer before leaving for late-innings defensive replacement late in a 6-4 win against the Rays.

He didn’t play in the field again until Sept. 24, when he spent an entire game in right field, doubling and hitting his 14th homer in a 4-2 loss to the Tigers. Doumit went 3-for-5 and played right field in a Sept. 26 loss to Cleveland, and had two more hits while playing right field again the next day in another loss to the Indians.

In the Twins’ final two games of the season, Sept. 28-29, he DH’d.

And now you know more than you ever imagined or probably cared to know about Ryan Doumit’s 2013 season. All that remained, after I had completed writing this, was to get a clarification from someone about his intentions re: catching – or not catching – in 2014. And the agent provided that. So I did some rewriting.

If Dozier had been correct, it would sure have been interesting to see what the Braves thought and eventually did about the situation. But as of now, it doesn’t seem like the comment was at all accurate.

Like I said, the Braves made the trade in large part because of Doumit being a catcher. Suffice to say, they could have pursued someone else if they only thought Doumit planned to play right field and first base, positions that the Braves don’t intend to use a backup as long as a couple of guys named Freeman and Heyward are healthy.

Again, I had a feeling after hearing about the Dozier comment that he’d gotten it wrong, that he wasn’t speaking for Doumit when he said that the latter was done catching for good. Now seems like that was the case.

And if so, a good part of a sunny, relatively balmy 52-degree Sunday afternoon was spent chasing a non-story when I could’ve been on my motorcycle.

Oh, well. Nature of the beast.

• The Braves start their nearly two-week early pitching program, aka  Camp Roger, on Monday at Turner Field. Sorry, it’s not open to the public, but figured you folks would like to know it’s happening, just another sign that spring training is just around the corner now.

Braves pitchers and catchers report to Lake Buena Vista on Feb. 13 and have their first workout the next day. The rest of the position players are due to report Feb. 18 (many, if not most, will get there earlier) and the first full-squad workout is Feb. 19. One month from today (Sunday) is the Grapefruit League opener against the Tigers.

Yes, Dark Star beckons.

• Enjoy this  tune by the great Charlie Rich.

“LONELY WEEKENDS” by Charlie Rich

Well I make it alright
From Monday morning ’til Friday night
But oh those lonely weekends

Well since you left me

Charlie Rich

Charlie Rich


Honey I’ve been as lonely as a man can be
But oh those lonely weekends

Well you said you’d be good to me
You said our love would never die
You said you’d be good to me
Whoa but darlin’ you wouldn’t even try

Well I make it alright
From Monday morning ’til Friday night
But oh those lonely weekends

You said you’d be good to me
You said our love would never die
You said you’d be good to me
Whoa but darlin’ you wouldn’t even try

Well I make it alright
From Monday morning ’til the Friday night
But oh those lonely weekends
But oh those lonely weekends
I said oh those lonely weekends
I said oh those lonely weekends…

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