Mesoraco aiming to increase workload behind dish

Mesoraco aiming to increase workload behind dish

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco succeeded last season as, for the first time, being the everyday guy behind the plate, but he started only 104 games. Much of that was due to two stints on the disabled list, but also because backup Brayan Pena became ace Johnny Cueto's personal catcher.

"I'm not going to do that to start the season," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Thursday before his club's pitchers and catchers worked out together for the first time in 2015. "Johnny threw well to both of them last year. It will be a little more random with how I use Brayan."

Mesoraco welcomed Price's plan for a bigger workload this season. Ideally, Mesoraco would like to catch at least 140 games, but he isn't opposed to more.

"Preferably, I'd like to catch 161 [games] and take one day off after we clinch," Mesoraco said. "I'm sure there are going to be some times where it makes sense to get Brayan in there and give me a couple of days to just regroup. As much as they want to write my name in the lineup is as much as I want to be back there."

Mesoraco, 26, had a breakout 2014 season as he batted .273/.359/.534 with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs over 114 games while becoming a first-time National League All-Star. Last month, he was rewarded with a four-year, $28 million contract that avoided arbitration. He was second on the club in 2014 in homers and tied for first in RBIs after starting the season with a strained left oblique and missing over two weeks with a strained left hamstring.

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Missing some games early enabled Pena to become Cueto's catcher, and it was a successful tandem. Cueto had a 2.35 ERA in their 25 games together. In nine games working with Mesoraco, it was a 1.93 ERA.

"Once Johnny and Brayan worked together, they had such a good thing going that [Price] didn't want to mess with anything they had," Mesoraco said. "At the end of the year, I was able to catch Johnny a couple of times. I think he's good not because of the guys behind the plate, that's for sure. He's good because he's Johnny Cueto."

There had been offseason speculation that Mesoraco might get some time at first base on days he didn't catch in order to keep his bat in the lineup. Pena played a lot of first base last season for the injured Joey Votto. But Price is counting on Votto to play regularly.

"I don't really anticipate [Mesoraco] playing much first base," Price said. "It could be something that happens in the future, but I don't think we are there yet. He's a young man. We don't know if he's one of those guys that can catch 135-140 games unless we give him that opportunity. I think he can do it, myself."

No catcher in the Majors caught 150 games last season, and only the Royals' Salvador Perez caught more than 140 (146). Mesoraco would like be the rare modern catcher that can do it.

"You train hard in the offseason to work toward it," he said. "It's something I really want to do. It would really solidify me being an everyday catcher, somebody that the pitching staff can count on to be there. All the best catchers are back there that much. That's where I want to be."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.