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Mesoraco healthy, enjoying strong camp

MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Considering what he's been through the past three years, getting through Spring Training healthy will be a win in itself for catcher Devin Mesoraco. It's just a couple of days before Cincinnati breaks camp.

But Mesoraco didn't just avoid the injury report and trainer's room during camp this year, he also produced and enjoyed a very good spring.

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Considering what he's been through the past three years, getting through Spring Training healthy will be a win in itself for catcher Devin Mesoraco. It's just a couple of days before Cincinnati breaks camp.

But Mesoraco didn't just avoid the injury report and trainer's room during camp this year, he also produced and enjoyed a very good spring.

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"I'm pleased I've been able to play, be a normal guy and not have restrictions or special considerations," Mesoraco said. "I've been able to just get ready for the season."

Over his 16 Cactus League games entering Saturday, Mesoraco is batting .343 (12-for-35) with three doubles, one home run and seven RBIs. The 29-year-old, who was an All-Star in 2014, is pleased with how he's performed.

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"At the plate and behind the plate, I feel pretty comfortable," Mesoraco said. "Obviously, there will always be little things here and there. There have been so many considerations here, health-wise, the last couple of years, you can't really focus on what you need to do to get ready for the season. It's different this year. I don't have to worry about that stuff."

In June of 2015, after he played only 23 games, Mesoraco had surgery to repair the labrum in his left hip. In May 2016, he had season ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. A couple of months later, he had surgery to repair the labrum in his right hip.

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Mesoraco endured a left shoulder strain in July that put him on the disabled list again last season. On Aug. 14 vs. the Cubs, he fractured his left foot when hit by a Jose Quintana pitch, ending his season.

Add it up and Mesoraco played 95 games -- with 61 starts -- from 2015-17 and batted .191/.292/.314 with six homers and 17 RBIs. Tucker Barnhart, the Gold Glove winner for National League catchers last year, will be the primary catcher in 2018, while Mesoraco backs up, earning over $13 million in the final year of his four-year contract.

Mesoraco has bought into his role without reservations, something that manager Bryan Price appreciated.

"It's imperative or else it becomes cancerous to a ball club," Price said. "Disgruntled players that wear that on their shoulder in the clubhouse, they become bad guys. Devin's not that guy. He's a realist. He understands what happened. He took the job from somebody else in 2014. We made a commitment to him and Ryan Hanigan was traded."

Video: SEA@CIN: Mesoraco belts a two-run homer to left

Mesoraco will catch a couple of days a week -- although it's not been revealed yet if he will work regularly with the same starting pitcher. He will also be a key pinch-hitter on the other days he doesn't start. If the Reds carry only two catchers, that could limit Price to using him in the late innings only. That's why the team is considering going with three catchers, allowing for the possible addition of Tony Cruz.

Either way, Mesoraco doesn't feel he would have to change his approach to accommodate being a role player.

"In 2015, I had the hip injury and was only able to pinch-hit," Mesoraco said. "That was a good learning experience on how to prepare yourself in those situations, how to get ready to come off the bench. So I feel if I'm being used that way, I'm well prepared to have good at-bats and be ready to go. I will be ready to go whenever Bryan needs me. I just want to be available and somebody he can count on."

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