Mesoraco: a catcher who gives it his all

CINCINNATI — As a catcher, Devin Mesoraco takes a beating like a man strung up with hands and legs bound and few defensive mechanisms.

As a catcher, that’s expected, a part of the position, standard operating procedure.

Mesoraco, though, always takes it a step farther. He runs on one gear, high, and the accerlator is always full throttle. He may not be the fastest guy, but what he has he gives.

And sometimes it is breathtaking.

THAT WAS THE CASE in the ninth inning Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Reds were down, 2-1, and needed base runners. Mesoraco nubbed one toward third base and fled for first as if somebody set his pants on fire.

He hit first base in funky way and nearly fell. But he was safe. Was he hurt? He is, after all, coming off hip surgery and he wasn’t in Thursday’s lineup.

Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price laughed about it Thursday morning, but he wasn’t laughing Wednesday when Mesoraco staggered after hitting first base.

“He’s fine,” said Price. “It gave us all a scare. I mean, that was how Zack Cozart tore up his knee last year, even though he didn’t lunge at the bag like Mesoraco did. You know, it’s wet and the top of the bases are wet.

“It is really important that these guys hit the front side of the base. If you get on the top it is real easy to slip. But what Mesoraco did certainly showed his desire to get to first base. He was hungry to give us a chance, but I just don’t want to see our guys lunging at the bag.”

AFTER MESORACO’S hit, Scott Scheduler banged a two-run game-winning double for a 3-2 victory.

“It is great to have Devin back this year because he plays with such great energy and such commitment,” said Price. “He was a regular and a 2014 All-Star and you certainly miss that. You miss his experience. He is such a solid guy and there is nobody who doesn’t love the guy and respect his work ethic and how much he cares about winning.”

MESORACO’S DAY OFF was planned — day game after night game and all that. Also missing was second baseman Brandon Phillips, shortstop Zack Cozart and center fielder Billy Hamilton.

Phillips was removed from the lineup just before Wednesday’s game with an upset stomach and he stayed home Thursday. “I don’t know if he is feeling better, but right now (before the game) he is home. I don’t know if he is coming in.”

Like Mesoraco, Cozart and Hamilton are coming off surgeries and the club is monitoring them closely. “We have Devin, Billy and Zack on certain protocols,” said Price. “Billy could have the best chance to play today, but I want to make sure I got Adam Duvall (left field) and Scott Schebler (center field) out there together every now and again. This first month will be a month of select days off for those three players.”

POOR MICHAEL LORENZ can’t catch a break. His ouchy elbow is nearly healed, but now he has what Price called, “a little bout with mononucleosis. His elbow is feeling good but he is currently is under house arrest. Once he is out of quarantine he’ll be able to start playing catch.”

And the rest of the wounded starting pitchers?
Homer Bailey and John Lamb each threw two innings in simulated games Wednesday at extended spring training in Goodyear, Ariz. Jon Moscot is scheduled to pitch tonight at high-A Daytona Beach.

“We have Moscot stretched out pretty good from minor league games during spring training so I’d think he’ll have two starts before we need him on April 17 (in St. Louis). We’d be comfortable with him in the 90-pitch range by then, so I’d think he’ll be in the 70 to 75 area today.”

Price said Homer Bailey is scheduled for four innings in his next extended spring appearance. “We’re gonna follow this thing to the letter of the law with Homer and take through late April or early May to get him six outings in preparation for his first start with the big club.”

RELIEF PITCHER BLAKE WOOD made his Reds debut for a scoreless inning of relief Wednesday and his fastball was lighting the speed gun at 98 and 99 miles an hour. His range usually is 95 to 96.

“These guys are well-rested and there is a lot of adrenaline in these first-time outings,” said Price. “We knew he had a big arm and in that range, comfortably in the 95-96 range. I wasn’t surprised necessarily by it. I was pleased to see it. But like everything else you have to manage velocity and to his credit and he came in and was able to harness his pitches over the plate.”

PITCHER DAN STRAILY was the team’s last addition and Price sees him as a valuable piece that fits in a lot of different holes.

“A guy like him is very important,” said Price. “There have been times here when we haven’t had anyone in our bullpen that we were comfortable with pitching more than two innings. With Dan getting stretched out in spring training as a starter it gives us a fallback — with the weather, with the young starters, not wanting to ask most of our guys to do too much — he can come in and pitch four or five innings of relief and save the bullpen.

“He can pitch in extra innings and he can come in if we have a long rain delay and burn our starter after two innings,” said Price. “It is not a luxury, it is a necessity, especially in the National League and in an environment where you get a lot of rain.”

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