Casali signed a one-year, $950,000 contract with the Reds on Thursday, avoiding arbitration, Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Casali will return to Cincinnati after serving as the team's backup catcher for a chunk of the 2018 campaign. The 30-year-old hit a solid .293/.355/.450 with four homers in 52 games for the Reds last season, but his path to playing time remains firmly blocked by Tucker Barnhart heading into 2019.
Casali will start at catcher and bat sixth Thursday against the Brewers, C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic Cincinnati reports. After starting at first base Wednesday and finishing 3-for-5 with an RBI in the Reds' 13-12 loss in 10 innings, Casali will move behind the plate for the series finale with regular backstop Tucker Barnhart receiving the day off. The absence of Joey Votto (lower leg) has allowed Casali and Barnhart to rotate duties at catcher and first base over the last several games, but with Votto returning from the DL on Thursday, the two will likely be limited almost exclusively to catching duties going forward. Expect Barnhart, a 2017 Gold Glove winner, to see the overwhelming share of starts at catcher in the season's final month, leaving few opportunities left over for Casali.
Casali is picking up a rare start at first base Tuesday night, batting eighth against the Brewers, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports. Casali has had a fantastic season at the plate in limited exposure as the backup catcher, well above his career norms. He's coming off a big day Saturday that included a homer against right-hander Brandon Kintzler. He'll face the Brewers' Junior Guerra on Tuesday.
Casali went 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and four RBI in Saturday's 10-6 loss to the Cubs. Getting the start at first base and hitting seventh, Casali blasted a three-run homer off Brandon Kintzler in the eighth inning, his fourth long ball in 35 games for the Reds. Casali's .333/.410/.552 slash line isn't sustainable -- he came into Saturday's contest with a .710 OPS in 195 career big-league games -- but as long as he's swinging a hot bat he'll keep finding his way into the lineup.
Starting for the second time in three games, Casali went 1-for-3 with a walk and scored the go-ahead run in Saturday's win over the Diamondbacks. Casali remains a very competent backup to Tucker Barnhart. He's now hitting .294/.400/.456 in 81 plate appearances.