Devin Mesoraco can work on his game this spring, albeit in a different role.
The Reds’ top draft pick in 2007 was healthy over the winter and busy being a dad. That was in stark contrast to the last three offseasons.
After an All-Star season in 2014, injuries — mainly hip and shoulder — have limited Mesoraco to 23, 16 and 56 games the last three seasons, respectively. A broken foot caused him to miss the final six weeks of the 2017 season.
»HAL MCCOY: Reds shouldn’t guarantee rotation spots
»RELATED: Reds offense off to slow start
Now a backup to Gold Glove winner Tucker Barnhart, Mesoraco is just happy to be healthy.
“No doubt it’s been great coming in here and just working on my game,” Mesoraco said. “I remember the last couple years, thinking I was doing a lot. In actuality, I wasn’t doing anything at all.
“This year I can do everything without any restrictions.”
Mesoraco played in 114 games in 2014. He hit .273, led Major League catchers with 25 home runs and was named to the NL All-Star team. The Reds anointed Mesoraco the starting catcher after trading Ryan Hanigan at the end of 2013. The Reds signed Mesoraco to a four-year contract to avoid arbitration. The contract runs out after this season.
Last season Mesoraco was limited to 39 starts at catcher. He hit .232 with six home runs and 14 RBIs.
While Mesoraco struggled to stay on the field, Barnhart has assumed the starter’s role. He hit .257 in 2016 then .270 last season in addition to winning the Gold Glove. The Reds signed Barnhart in September to a contract extension that runs through the 2021 season.
“Because of Mesoraco’s maturity and his professionalism, I don’t think he’s conceding anything,” Price said. “When we’ve spoken about it, he knows he has to stay healthy and perform to create his opportunities. He knows the better he plays the more playing time he gets. He missed the bulk of the last three years and he takes ownership of that.”
“It is imperative to have someone as grounded as Mes,” Pricea added. “It becomes cancerous to a ballclub when they’re not. Disgruntled players who wear that on their shoulder in the clubhouse become bad guys. Devin’s not that guy. He’s a realist. He understands what happened. He took the job from somebody else. We made a commitment to him. Ryan Hanigan was traded. We went all in on Devin.”
Other than having a 6-month old son, Luke Devin, crawling around, Mesoraco had a normal offseason.
“I was able to start my workouts when I wanted to. I was able to start hitting when I wanted to, no restrictions,” he said. “I’m thankful that nothing I had lingered too far into the offseason. It makes a big difference.”
Mesoraco’s offseason work has carried over to the spring. He was hitting .267 with two doubles in 15 at bats through Wednesday.
“Mesoraco looks really good. He’s moving behind the plate well. He’s throwing well. He looks more comfortable at the plate,” Price said. “He looks healthy. He looks athletic.”