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Mesoraco closing in on spring debut

Reds catcher feels good after live BP session
MLB.com @m_sheldon

MESA, Ariz. -- Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco has yet to appear in a Spring Training game, but he took an important step on Friday that brought him a little closer to making his 2017 debut. Mesoraco faced Cuban pitching prospect Vladimir Gutierrez in live batting practice, his first time taking swings in simulated game action.

"It felt great, no issues," Mesoraco said. "It was nice to hit the ball. In live BP, it's somewhat difficult to feel normal. But my swing felt fine and my shoulder felt great."

MESA, Ariz. -- Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco has yet to appear in a Spring Training game, but he took an important step on Friday that brought him a little closer to making his 2017 debut. Mesoraco faced Cuban pitching prospect Vladimir Gutierrez in live batting practice, his first time taking swings in simulated game action.

"It felt great, no issues," Mesoraco said. "It was nice to hit the ball. In live BP, it's somewhat difficult to feel normal. But my swing felt fine and my shoulder felt great."

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Mesoraco, a 2014 National League All-Star, was not overly concerned about having his timing back just yet.

"Live BP is never an indication, because it's kind of a different animal with the cage," Mesoraco said. "You're not kind of ramped up for the game. But I felt normal. I really felt like it was a normal live BP that I would have done in past years."

During regular BP sessions, with coaches pitching, Mesoraco was seen pulling the ball and clearing the fence several times.

"I definitely feel like my bat speed is increasing and getting back to the way that I kind of used to feel," he said. "Things are really progressing, I think, very nicely."

In May 2016, Mesoraco had an operation to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a labrum surgery in July for his right hip. In June 2015, the labrum in his left hip was repaired. The three surgeries have limited him to catching 18 games over the past two seasons.

The Reds have not rushed Mesoraco through the spring, but he has caught bullpen sessions, performed catching drills and other normal activities without any setbacks.

"No issues catching. I'm very happy," Mesoraco said. "We've had a good plan here of taking it easy and step by step. I haven't had any issues. I really feel like I can get into better position. I feel more athletic. I feel really happy with where I'm at, catching-wise."

Mesoraco hoped to make his Cactus League debut in a week, but he noted it was up to the medical staff.

If he stays healthy, the plan for the early season is for Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart to split catching duties.

"[Barnhart] will simply because I know going into the season when Devin is ready to play, we're not going to be ready for him to go five out of seven [games]," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I think there's going to be a little bit more of a timeshare on the front end of the season before hopefully Devin seizes that bulk of the playing time. There's nothing Tucker has done for me to have any thoughts of him as simply a second catcher. Right now, it would be responsible to think that Devin will start with a limited load and build up to being four or five out of every seven games caught."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Devin Mesoraco