- Associated Press
Saturday, March 12, 2011

PORT ST. LUCIE, FLA. (AP) - New York Mets catcher Ronny Paulino arrived in camp after a three-week delay because of visa problems caused by his 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.

“It was a long process, but finally I am here,” Paulino said Saturday. “There’s nothing I can do about it, just have to make adjustments and get ready to play. I’ve been working out at the stadium of the team I played winter ball with (in the Dominican Republic).”

After Saturday’s workout, Paulino is scheduled to catch a minor-league game Sunday. The former Marlins catcher said it should not take long for him to learn the pitchers on the Mets staff.

“When I was with the Marlins, I got there a week before the season started and everything went OK,” Paulino said. “I’m here to go out and do whatever they need me to do.”

Paulino said he will try to learn as many pitchers as he can by catching bullpen sessions. But when it comes to catching Mets’ knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, Paulino says he will be entering unchartered territory.

“I never tried that before, so let’s see what happens,” Paulino said.

Paulino batted .273 with four home runs and 37 RBI last season before testing positive for a performance enhancing drug and receiving a 50-game ban. He still must serve eight games of the ban at the start of the season.

Mets manager Terry Collins anticipates putting Paulino through an accelerated program to get him ready to join the Mets once his suspension ends.

“We’re going to push the envelope a little bit here in the next couple weeks to try to do as much as we can to get him as ready as possible and then use that extra week to get him playing time,” Collins said. “The hardest part is the minor league season doesn’t start until the 7th (of April), so he can still got get a couple games in before he does report. We’ll make use of the minor league side as best we can.”

The Mets signed Paulino as a right-handed bat to complement the left-handed hitting Josh Thole, who is expected to get the majority of the playing time behind the plate.

“We signed him as a guy that we know is a very good offensive player who can spell Josh and hopefully be productive at a position when we want to give Josh some time off,” Collins said. “We’ll get him plenty of at-bats. We’ll use him in that particular role and see how the season goes.”

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