If 2015 was a disaster following his breakout season, 2016 can only be described as a nightmare for Devin Mesoraco. The year started off poorly for the backstop, as he missed the beginning of spring training while rehabbing from his 2015 hip surgery. Soon after he got onto the field, more injuries surfaced. His season ended in late April and he ultimately underwent a pair of surgeries to fix his shoulder (which was more damaged than initially believed) and the labrum in his other hip. The results on the field were not pretty: a career-worst .140 batting average with one extra-base hit in just 16 games played. The Reds are intent on having Mesoraco back behind the dish in 2017, but given his health history and the rigors of the positions, it's best to set expectations fairly low heading into the 2017 campaign.
Reds manager Bryan Price said Sunday that Mesoraco (hip, shoulder) is "very unlikely" to be ready for Opening Day, Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Mesoraco hasn't experienced any setbacks on the health front after requiring surgeries the last two seasons on both hips and his shoulder, but the lack of at-bats he's received in spring training hasn't adequately prepared him to be available on a regular basis. It's expected that the 28-year-old will remain in extended spring training when the season begins in order to get more games under his belt, and if all goes well, Mesoraco could be activated by April. It's expected that Mesoraco will eventually displace Tucker Barnhart as the Reds' primary catcher, though the two backstops could share duties at the position in the early going.
Mesoraco acknowledged that he might not be ready in time for Opening Day, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. "I'm a guy who hasn't played in two years, essentially," Mesoraco told C. Trent Rosecrans. "For me to come out catching one full game and getting 15 at-bats in spring training, that's probably not putting me or the team in the best position. If everybody thinks I'm perfectly ready and ready to go, I'll be in there. If not, it's fine." Mesoraco has to be treated as a complete wild card in redraft leagues this year, given that he's lost the last two seasons to injury and doesn't appear to be fully ready to start this season. It's not just whether and when he'll play; will he ever recapture the ability that made him valuable in the first place? His hip injury in particular is scary when it comes to generating power.
Mesoraco will play in Wednesday's Cactus League game against the Padres, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports. Mesoraco will bat leadoff Wednesday in order to get more at-bats, as he looks to make up for lost time a bit. The 28-year-old has been brought along slowly in camp after undergoing surgery last year to repair his right hip labrum -- he's had surgery on both hips in recent years, and on his shoulder. Mesoraco caught two innings Sunday in his spring debut and will look to gradually increase his workload behind the plate moving forward. The Reds are not expected to break camp with three catchers on the active roster.
The Reds will begin the season with just two catchers, whether Mesoraco is ready for Opening Day or not. This doesn't necessarily mean Mesoraco will not be ready -- only that they won't carry a third catcher and limit Mesoraco's duties to pinch-hitting and spot starting behind the plate early on. If he's not ready to split the catching duties 50-50 right away, Mesoraco will begin the year on the DL.
Mesoraco caught two innings in his Cactus League debut Sunday, going 0-for-1 in his only at-bat. "It was good. Health-wise, I feel great," Mesoraco said. "I think my heart was beating a little faster than normal today, just getting out there for the first time in a while. I'll keep working, get back out there and get back to where I was." Mesoraco is about two weeks behind teammate Tucker Barnhart, who will probably get a greater share of the workload early in the season before giving way to Mesoraco later, if Mesoraco can prove he's fully healthy.