Mesoraco, Olivo battling for backup-catcher role
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds have very few roster spots up for grabs this spring, but one battle that could last until the end of camp is for backup catcher.
Devin Mesoraco had that role most of last season but struggled at the plate throughout his rookie year. On Feb. 1, Cincinnati signed veteran Miguel Olivo to a Minor League contract and invited him to big league camp as a non-roster player.
"You're deciding on if we keep Mesoraco or if you keep a guy like Olivo," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Monday. "[Olivo] has a lot of experience. The one drawback is he's non-roster. You would really have to play your way on for you to take somebody else off."
Olivo, who was 0-for-2 after starting behind the plate vs. the Brewers on Monday, is 1-for-4 this spring with a home run. In earlier games, he also walked once with the bases loaded and had a sacrifice fly.
"I'm just doing what I'm used to doing, having fun and playing baseball and letting everything take care of itself," Olivo said. "I've already caught everyone in the bullpen. I feel more comfortable as they get to know me a little more."
Even though he wasn't guaranteed a roster spot, Olivo decided to sign with the Reds because he liked the idea of playing for a contender.
"I decided to come here because I think this team has a better chance to go to the World Series," Olivo said. "They told me I had a chance to compete. I just want to play baseball and help the team win. If they're giving me an opportunity, I'm happy."
The 34-year-old Olivo has played for six clubs, including the past two seasons with the Mariners. He has shown some pop as he batted .222 in 2012, but he had 12 home runs and 29 RBIs in 87 games.
"He's super strong with a real good throwing arm," Baker said. "I've known him a long time. He brings a lot of energy to the game, to the ballpark."
Mesoraco, 24, was the Reds' top prospect entering 2012 but batted .212 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 54 games. One inning after Olivo's solo homer vs. the Indians on Friday, Mesoraco hit a two-run shot that easily cleared the fence in left-center field.
In three games, Mesoraco is 1-for-4. After entering Monday's game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning, he went 0-for-2 with an RBI on a fielder's choice ground ball.
The Reds are now faced with the question of whether it would be better long-term for Mesoraco to get regular at-bats in Triple-A or develop in the Majors gradually as a backup to primary catcher Ryan Hanigan.