Casali thriving in backup role for Reds

Reds catcher Curt Casali plays against the Rockies on Thursday, June 7, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

caption arrowCaption
Reds catcher Curt Casali plays against the Rockies on Thursday, June 7, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Since joining Reds, catcher is hitting .407 in 11 games

Curt Casali thinks the Cincinnati Reds may be on to something with their decisions to draft Southeastern Conference players — Tennessee’s Nick Senzel and Florida’s Jonathan India — in the first round two of the last three years. He also admits he may be biased because he played at Vanderbilt.

“I’m very partial to the players in the league,” Casali said. “I think it’s as competitive a league as any in the country. That being said, I haven’t played in the other leagues. I’m a huge Vanderbilt Commodore fan. Anytime I see a fellow SEC guy doing well in the big leagues, it definitely excites me.”

» DRAGONS UPDATE: Hunter Green pitching well

Casali can count himself among those players. Since the Reds acquired Casali from the Tampa Bay Rays on May 31 in exchange for cash considerations, he's hit .407 (11-for-27) in 11 games. He has made six starts, most recently Wednesday when he went 2-for-4 in a 6-5 victory against the Atlanta Braves.

“Curt has come in and handled the staff well,” said interim manager Jim Riggleman on Thursday before the start of a four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park. “He’s given us good at-bats, but the more important part is he’s been really solid behind the plate.”

Handling pitchers is the most important part of Casali’s job. He had to learn fast because he didn’t have the history with the staff that the starter Tucker Barnhart has. Even Tony Cruz, who took over the backup role in the last half of May after Devin Mesoraco was traded to the New York Mets, knew the pitchers from having worked with them in spring training.

Casali credited Barnhart with helping him catch up.

“He was really helpful,” Casali said. “The guy wants to win — no matter who’s back there. We want to have me back there without skipping a beat. So far we’ve been able to do that.”

» RELATED: Buy or sell these tradable players?

Casali, who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 10th round in 2011, debuted with the Rays in 2014. He got his most playing time in 2016, appearing in 84 games. Last season, he spent most of the season in Triple-A Durham.

Coming off the bench or starting once or twice a week is a new experience for Casali, who said he has had a lot of help adjusting to the role.

“(Catching coordinator) Mike Stefanski has been working me really well,” Casali said. “We’ve gotten into a new routine. Being in backup role to Tucker, that’s perfectly fine to me. I feel I can add a lot of value to the club in that way. I’m just working with (hitting coach) Don Long and working on my timing and being ready to go whenever my name’s called.”

About the Author