I’m not sure any of us should be surprised by this “news,” but here you go:
Devin Mesoraco called Opening Day “arbitrary” among a 162-game season, so if the veteran catcher isn’t ready by that day, he isn’t ready, he said on Monday.
Mesoraco played four innings and was 1 for 2 against the Royals on Monday and is working his way up to a full game. Still, the Reds leave Arizona next week and he is aware that he may not be ready to start the season on April 3.
“I’m a guy who hasn’t played in two years, essentially,” said Mesoraco, who had hip surgery in 2015 and hip and shoulder surgery last season. “For me to come out catching one full game and getting 15 at-bats in spring training, that’s probably not putting me or the team in the best position. If everybody thinks I’m perfectly ready and ready to go, I’ll be in there. If not, it’s fine.”
Go read C. Trent’s entire piece for much more, including quotes from manager Bryan Price.
I know many fans — judging from the reaction on Twitter, which I should never do — will be upset by this news, but I’m not sure what anyone expected. Mesoraco is coming back from a long, long absence, having engaged in very little baseball activity over the course of two years. You were expecting him to be able to perform at the big league level without some time to prepare himself against real pitchers?
Baseball is hard. Mesoraco has performed well as a hitter in the past, so there’s reason for hope that he’ll be able to perform well in the future. But even if he is completely healthy this spring, there was always going to be the issue of how long it would take Mesoraco to get his timing back and his swing in good enough shape to face the best pitchers in the world. No one should have expected that to be a quick process, after essentially two years on the disabled list.
Do I wish Mesoraco were going to be in the Opening Day lineup? Of course! But I’m okay with the Reds and Mesoraco taking their sweet time to ensure that he’s healthy and ready to compete at a high level once he gets the go-ahead.
To me, the good news is that we haven’t heard anything about any setbacks for Mesoraco, health-wise. Yes, they’re taking it slow, but Mesoraco seems to be in good shape, he’s participating in a full range of baseball activities, including catching and throwing. While the timeline might not be enough to get Mesoraco into the lineup in game one, I’m satisfied — perhaps a better word is hopeful — that he’s on track to return to the big leagues soon thereafter.
The big question facing the Reds, of course, is what to do with the catcher’s position while the club is waiting for Mesoraco’s full-time return. Obviously, Tucker Barnhart will be the primary starter, as he was last year. After him will be either Rob Brantly or Stuart Turner.
My vote goes to Turner, for what it’s worth. Here’s our profile on Turner, published just after the Reds selected him in the Rule 5 draft. Turner has an exceptional reputation as a defensive catcher, though his bat has always lagged behind (of course, he’s hitting .435/.552/.609 in 16 games this spring). He seems like the type of useful piece that I’d prefer the Reds try to keep in the organization, if possible.
I’m sure the Reds are leaning one way or the other, as they always knew there was a distinct possibility Mesoraco wouldn’t be ready at the opening bell. Then again, maybe Mesoraco will be prepared to catch 50-60 percent of Reds games sooner, rather than later. There I go being hopeful again.