Mesoraco confident he'll be starting catcher

Reds vet aware he has to prove himself after two injury-plagued seasons

Mesoraco confident he'll be starting catcher

CINCINNATI -- Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco has every intention to return to the form that made him a 2014 All-Star, but realizes there are skeptics. That comes with the territory because he's had a major surgery on each hip and another on his non-throwing shoulder, limiting him to 39 games over the past two seasons.

Mesoraco, 28, is not deterred, however.

"I've always been focused on the end and just getting back to being the player I know I can be," Mesoraco said during Redsfest. "I think the game is not going to wait around forever. You have to be out there, you have to be playing, you've got to be producing. I realize this may the last time I'm going to have the opportunity to be an everyday player and establish myself as one of better catchers in the league, the guy the organization invested in and knew they had. It just hadn't turned out the way everybody hoped."

It was on the heels of his 2014 All-Star season -- when he hit 25 home runs with 80 RBIs -- that Mesoraco avoided arbitration by signing a four-year, $28 million contract. The deal was backloaded to pay him $20.45 million over the final two years, which means he still has time to bring much of the expected value.

Bailey and Mesoraco on health

Mesoraco appears to be on track with his rehabilitation. He's been lifting for a while and was scheduled this week to resume hitting and throwing.

"Things are going very well. I'll start catching drills in January, which is roughly the same time when I'd normally start. Everything is going good," Mesoraco said. "Honestly, I feel better now than I did last year. I think at this time I didn't quite have as much strength as I do now. I feel like my lower body strength is far greater than what it was. I think some of it can be attributed to where my hip was going into the surgery. It was definitely in a better spot. I really don't think it should a huge factor."

In June 2015, Mesoraco had left hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. In May of this past season, he needed another operation to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. With doctors noticing signs in his right hip, Mesoraco had that labrum repaired in July as a preventative procedure.

Reds manager Bryan Price remains optimistic about Mesoraco's future. Price wasn't sure yet how many games he could count on him playing, but also felt comfort knowing that Mesoraco can split time with Tucker Barnhart. When Mesoraco was down last season, Barnhart proved he could be the everyday catcher.

"I don't think he's going to have a Yadier Molina year where he's able to catch in 140-plus games, but I do believe that he's going to make it back behind the plate," Price said. "And now the question is after being out of the game for most of the last two seasons is getting his timing and swing down. But he's still young, he's still athletic, he still has power, that's not going to go away. I think there has to be a certain amount of patience for him to find his way offensively and I'm not discouraged by it."

Mesoraco believes he can be the Reds' starting catcher.

"If I'm healthy and playing the way I'm capable of, I would imagine that's somebody you want in the lineup," he said. "Whether I'm healthy and playing the way I capable of, time will tell. I'm very confident I can get back to that point."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.