Because of the physical abuse, the battering the position inflicts upon the body, conventional wisdome is, “Momma don’t let your babies grow up to be catchers.”
The Mesoraco Clan doesn’t adhere to that advice and Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco says, “I wouldn’t want to play any other position. I love catching.”
He loves it even more this week after he came to terms on a four-year $28 million contract with the Reds that includes a $500,000 signing bonus. The contract is heavily backloaded: $2.4 million this year (about the average major league salary), $4.9 million in 2016, $7.2 million in 2017 and nearly half of it, $13 million, in 2017.
IN ADDITION, Mesoraco will earn $400,000 after each season in which he makes at least 502 plate appearances.
Because of the beating a catcher takes, there are those in Redsland who wonder if maybe Mesoraco should be Joey Votto’s back-up at first base and be the first baseman when Votto is injured (he missed 100 games last year).
Manager Bryan Price doesn’t see it that way. In fact, there will be no more sharing of the catching duties for Mesoraco they way he shared it with Ryan Hanigan in 2013 and Brayn Pena last year.
MESORACO IS THE MAN and he earned it last year with a breakout season — .273, 25 homers, 25 doubles, 80 RBI.
“I’ve been asked that question a lot about Mesoraco playing first base,” said Price. “How much would he play? Only if Votto was injured. Realistically, I see him as a Yadier Moilina type guy who is going to catch 145 games a year, more so than I see him catching 110 a year and playing 20 or 30 at first base.
“It stood out more last year because I linked up Johnny Cueto with Pena catching,” Price added. “I anticipate Mesoraco catching a lot more games this year, especially if he stays healthy. We won’t pair Pena with Cueto as much. Devin did a real nice job with Johnny the times he caught him.”
THERE IS NO doubt that if the Reds are to have success this season one of the many things that must go right is the continued success of Mesoraco and third baseman Todd Frazier, both of whom carried the majority of the offensive load last season.
More and more, with his emergence and his outgoing personality, Frazier is becoming The Face of the Reds. He is a positive person, a guy who loves the game, a guy who is always at his locker before and after games answering every question aimed his way and he does it with a smile and with humor.
THE REDS CARAVAN made a private stop last Saturday at Fifth Third Field in Dayton and Frazier stole the show.
He remembered the fun he had in Dayton and recalled that he once said, “I’d play in Dayton the rest of my career for $1 million.” On Saturday, he smiled and said, “That may have been the dumbest quote of my life.”
Asked about his off-season work, he said, “This cold weather hasn’t helped much (he lives in Toms River, N.J.), so when we get outside a little it will be rock and roll time. It is going to be a very exciting time for the Reds because everybody is healthy and I’m feeling pretty good myself.”
Frazier is established now but he remembers his major-league debut, a call-up from Class AAA to Louisville to join the Reds in Philadelphia in 2011.
“Dusty Baker (the manager) had me on-deck to pinch-hit with the bases loaded and two outs, but Ryan Hanigan grounded out,” said Frazier. “I had about 60 people in the stands and the next inning I pinch-hit. I didn’t even know I was walking on my way to the plate, it was the coolest thing in the world.
“The first pitch I threw the bat in the stands on my first big-league swing,” he said. “I got booed because the audience didn’t like it. Then I struck out and got sent back down the next day.”
FRAZIER SAID HE wouldn’t change a thing, the bat-throwing or the strikeout.
“My brother only got two weeks in the big leagues and he said it was the best time of his life and I’m just riding the wave of big-league life.”
For Frazier, the wave last year was like riding The Red Bull in Africa and for him that wave can only big bigger.
FRZIER ALSO RECALLED the first time he faced Aroldis Chapman, the guy who throws heat-seeking missiles out of the Reds bullpen.
It was during spring training, the first intrasquad game of spring in Goodyear, AZ.
“I was fired up when Chapman came into the game,” said Frazier. “It was Scott Rolen’s turn to hit and I said, ‘Scott, do you mind if I get in there?’ Rolen said, ‘Dude, you can have all the at bats you want against that guy.’ The first pitch, boom, right off the back of my knee. But the next year I got him — I hit a home run off him.”
That home run didn’t count, other than to assuage Frazier’s ego, but the 27 he hit last season all counted and there is no reason he can’t hit 30 or more this year.