CINCINNATI — After a slow start — and he was crawling on all fours during his rehab in Double-A — catcher Devin Mesoraco’s bat is beginning to reverberate.
When he was healthy in the good ol’ days, back in 2014, when he hit 25 home runs and drove in 80, Mesoraco batted in the filet mignon part of the order, fourth and fifth.
Right now he is batting eighth, a normal spot for a catcher, but not a normal spot for Mesoraco. Manager Bryan Price, though, is content to have a productive piece batting eighth and plans to keep it that way as long as his offense continues to perform at peak efficiency.
WHAT IS IT LIKE HAVING Mesoraco batting eighth? “It’s nice,” Price said with a smile.
“The really good teams have that hitting component low in the order,” he said. “You don’t have that pocket in the bottom of the order that lesser teams have. It is seven, eight and nine, the low probability inning of doing anything offensively or setting the table for the top of the order.
“Devin can line a base hit or draw a walk just as easily as he can hit a home run,” Price added. “He can do some things in that eight-hole because he has enough discipline for a guy who has hit in the middle of the order. He understands how to hit eighth and I doubt if he has a ton of experience hitting there.”
Mesoraco has hit safely in eight of his last 10 appearances — 10 for 26 (.385) with two doubles, two home runs and two RBI.
SO IF MESORACO CONTINUES to progress and becomes the offensive force he was in 2014 does Price see him moving up in the order, reclaiminng the fourth or fifth spot?
“I like the way we’re doing things offensively to the point I’ll leave it where it is until or unless the time comes that we struggle,” said Price. “I like what the guys are doing in this order. Guys dictate where they hit based on their performance, but in this case I really like the way we’re set right now. But I have the right to change my mind if we have any extended periods where we struggle, then I could inject him higher in the order.”
OF MESORACO’S LONG, SLOW process of recuperation, Price said, “Injuries are such a mental challenge. We all think about the physical stuff and the rehab stuff, but it is the mental toll that weighs on you, not being able to compete.
“Having two or three seasons of continuous injury becomes a mental beatdown,” Price added. “I know when he hit his first home run he made it around the bases faster than I can ever remember seeing him run the bases. There was so much adrenaline about being back and doing something at this level and contributing to the team.
“It was a special moment for me, too, because I wasn’t lost in what that meant to Devin. Having him back is good for our performance and he enhances the morale of our ballclub.”
THE RETURN OF THE three missing starting pitchers is getting closer and closer. Homer Bailey will pitch a camp game Wednesday. Anthony DeSclafani threw his first bullpen Sunday and Brandon Finnegan throws his first bullpen Tuesday.
Finnegan, out since April 16 with left shoulder issues, is marking the minutes and seconds to get back on the mound.
“I thought when this happened it would be a 10-day thing and I’d start throwing again,” said Finnegan. Instead, it has been a two-month thing and the hopeful date of his return to the rotation is mid-June. “I thought at most I’d be out two weeks, but they’re just being smart with me and I can’t be mad at that.
“I feel good now and that’s all that matters,” he said. “Once I start throwing off the mound I think it will go by pretty quick instead of just playing catch every day. I get to start (throwing off the mound) tomorrow, so I’m pumped.”
Finnegan said he’ll throw 20 pitches Tuesday, then throw 35 on Saturday and build from there.
SPEAKING OF THE MISSING rotation members, Price was asked if the team’s rebuilding program would be on a faster track with Bailey, DeSclafani and Finnegan in the rotation, if the team might be contending.
“Yes, without question,” said Price. “If .500 makes you average, we were an average team in the second half last year, one game under .500, and we were missing some pieces there.
“If you take 60 per cent of your rotation and put it Arizona doing rehab it doesn’t make any team better,” he said. “And there are plenty of teams going through it. I heard the other day that Seattle has all five of its starters on the DL, so there is no violin playing in the background in here right now. This is baseball. We’d certainly be better with all our players healthy, as would every team.”
WITH THE CLEVELAND INDIANS in town, the subject of how the Tribe uses relief pitcher Andrew Miller whenever needed in the middle of the game came up.
“I’d make an argument that we did it first,” said Price, referring to how he used Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias the second half of last season and how he is using them this year. “We didn’t want to limit them to being one-inning situational guys. Because of our bullpen’s struggles, we did it out of necessity last year, utilizing our better pitchers when we needed to.”
QUOTE OF DAY
“For me, personally, the interleague play stuff has been a novelty and I imagine the people of Ohio enjoy it (Reds versus Indians)more than I do. I like playing National League teams specifically. I may have just offended the entire state of Ohio and I hope I didn’t.” — Reds Manager Bryan Price on interleague play.