Turner looks to make most of opportunity

Catcher attempting to make jump from Double-A to the Majors

February 20th, 2017
Cincinnati Reds' Stuart Turner must prove that he's ready for big league action if he wishes to secure a Reds' roster spot. (Brian McLeod/MiLB.com)

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds catcher had the benefit of already being on the 40-man roster this spring by virtue of him being a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Twins in December.

"The first thought that came to mind is this opportunity is before me by God. I am going to make the most of it," Turner said. "I have a chance to learn from different guys and better myself in different ways."

However, Turner is still a long way from house-hunting in Cincinnati. The 25-year-old former third-round pick by Minnesota in 2013 must learn a new organization, a new pitching staff and show that he can make the jump from Double-A to the Major Leagues.

One thing out of Turner's hands is whether he is even needed. The Reds aren't sure if they can carry another catcher behind and . With Mesoraco coming off two injury-plagued seasons in which he's caught 18 games, insurance was wanted. The Reds also have non-roster Rob Brantly in camp to compete for the spot.

"We get a six-to-seven week look at him to see if he's ready to handle what would be a year of big league service time," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He'd have to play. I just don't think we're in a place to carry a player just to keep him. I don't think that would be a great idea. … He has to have aptitude and he has to get better. And beyond that, there has to be a spot."

Last spring, the Reds had Rule 5 picks in outfielder Jake Cave and lefty reliever . Neither earned a spot and both were sent back to their old clubs, although Cave wasn't cut until the end of camp. Rule 5 players must remain on the 25-man roster for the entire season, or be offered back to their former clubs.

Last season at Double-A Chattanooga, Turner batted .239/.322/.363 with six home runs and 41 RBIs in 97 games. That's consistent with his four-season slash line of .241/.325/.352 and underscores that Turner is a defense-first type of catcher.

"I've always took a lot of pride in that," Turner said. "It's fun to hit and you want to hit, but to me, it's a lot more fun to call a game or throw a guy out or do what you're supposed to do behind the plate. That's the most important part of the game."

That's fine with Price, who prefers that his catchers can handle themselves well defensively.

"If he could rake, but couldn't catch or call a game or run a pitching staff, he wouldn't have the value for me," Price said. Even then, it would be tough to get him pinch-hit at-bats. He's got to be able to call a game and manage a pitching staff, first and foremost."

For Turner, he did not feel added pressure to make the club while learning his way around.

"Hopefully I can show these pitchers sooner than later that I am here to work for them and do my best to make them comfortable," Turner said. "Obviously, you're trying to learn new guys after catching the same guys the last three or four years. I think it will be just fine."