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Fast fall for Paulino

LAS VEGAS — A year ago, Ronny Paulino was the Pirates’ incumbent starting catcher. He quickly tumbled from there to a backup role, then to a spot on the minor-league disabled list. The free fall ended with Paulino landing in the Phillies organization.

Tonight, the Pirates swapped Paulino for Jason Jaramillo, a 26-year-old switch-hitter.

Jaramilo is the second catcher acquired by Huntington in four months. Robinzon Diaz arrived in August in the Jose Bautista trade. It gives the Pirates four catchers on the 40-man roster, including Ryan Doumit, Diaz and Steve Lerud.

Paulino hit .310 in 2006 as a rookie, but quickly fell out of favor with the new management team. His work ethic was too lax, his physique too soft, his defensive skills practically nonexistent.

“We had gotten to the point with Ronny where we felt it was better for him to move on,” GM Neal Huntington said. “This was a good fit for both of us.”

Jaramillo, who has two minor-league options left, was placed on the 40-man roster. He will compete during spring training with Diaz for the Pirates’ backup job.

Jaramillo, who was the Phils’ second-round pick in 2004, has solid defensive skills. But the Phillies rushed Jaramillo early in his minor-league career and had him skip a portion of Class A ball before arriving at Double-A Reading at age 23. His batting stats suffered as a result.

Jaramillo, 26, batted .266 with eight homers and 39 RBI last season for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He was rated the Phillies’ 10th-best prospect before the 2008 season.

In 2007, Jaramillo hit 271 for Triple-A Ottawa. His manager that season was current Pirates manager John Russell.

“We like the way he catches and the way he throws,” Huntington said. “And we think there’s some upside with the bat.”

Huntington said “six to eight” teams contacted the Pirates about Paulino. Talks with the Phillies had been sporadic for days, but things came together quickly today.

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