Mesoraco sees 'quite a bit of action' in debut

Catcher's two-inning spring return successful at and behind plate

Mesoraco sees 'quite a bit of action' in debut

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It was a brief debut of two innings, but Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco crammed a lot into his long-anticipated spring debut on Thursday vs. the Indians. In his first game action since June 29 left hip surgery, Mesoraco hit a home run in his lone at-bat and kept busy defensively during the 8-6 victory.

Most important, there were no complications or setbacks.

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"It was good. It was good to be back out there, good to get through it with no problems," Mesoraco said. "I will get back to work [Friday]."

Mesoraco caught for rookie starter Robert Stephenson, who was not enjoying a smooth day and lacked his best stuff.

"A lot of opportunity to get a lot of work in for two innings, you can believe that," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "A lot of pitches, a lot of below-zone breaking balls and changeups amongst his fastball, obviously. [Mesoraco] got a lot of work in for two innings and looked good."

In the top of the first inning, Rajai Davis stole a base and Mike Napoli got caught. Davis initially bluffed a steal, prompting a perfect throw by Mesoraco to second base. Davis ended up not going, however.

"Everybody said [Davis] was going. With the lefty [hitter] sometimes in there, it's hard to tell. I wasn't able to stop myself. It was a good throw," Mesoraco said.

Davis would steal later in Jason Kipnis' at-bat.

"I wished the one after looked more like that one," Mesoraco said. "Being behind the plate is going to be a work in progress."

Mesoraco nabbed Napoli trying to steal second to end the Cleveland half of the first.

In the bottom of the first, against right-hander Danny Salazar, Mesoraco crushed a 1-1 fastball very high, and very deep, to left field for a two-run homer.

"The at-bat was fine," Mesoraco said. "He's a very good young pitcher with a good, hard fastball. For the most part, that's what I like to hit. I got a pitch up and out over the plate and put a good swing on it."

As planned before the game, Mesoraco exited the game after an event-free second inning and was replaced by Ramon Cabrera.

"I got a lot of tests, a lot of balls in the dirt, a lot of stolen bases in two innings," Mesoraco said. "There was quite a bit of action. I would say I did just about everything, and it felt as we expected."

Having the 27-year-old Mesoraco maintain a presence in the lineup and behind the plate is critical for the Reds this season. He was an All-Star in 2014, when he hit a career-high 25 homers over a career-high 114 games and was lauded for how he worked with pitchers.

Mesoraco was limited to 23 games last season, including six starts at catcher, because of his hip. It was originally diagnosed as an impingement, but the season-ending operation he underwent repaired a torn labrum.

There were no rehab setbacks until early in camp, when he had a sore left groin and hip flexor that required him to miss a few days of drills and delay the timetable.

Mesoraco will get at-bats in a Minor League game on Friday and return to catch in a big league game Saturday vs. the A's. The Reds still hope that he can get ready in time to open the regular season with the club.

"The hardest thing for me is going to be just to get the innings built up behind the plate," Mesoraco said. "You can't go from two innings to nine innings, or else you'll just ask for more problems.

"It's kind of -- you got to build it up and just allow the innings to wear on your legs at the right pace. We definitely have enough time for that. At-bats-wise, we can always make that up in the Minor Leagues. I'm not worried about at-bats. It's building up the innings to catch."

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