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Backup Barnhart preparing as if he's starting

Reds expect Mesoraco to resume full-time role after missing most of '15
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- Tucker Barnhart is expected to be the Reds' No. 2 catcher this season, but conducted an offseason workout program of a No. 1 catcher.

Barnhart isn't making a bid to knock Devin Mesoraco off as Cincinnati's regular catcher. But attrition at the position, and recent history, dictates a readiness for anything.

CINCINNATI -- Tucker Barnhart is expected to be the Reds' No. 2 catcher this season, but conducted an offseason workout program of a No. 1 catcher.

Barnhart isn't making a bid to knock Devin Mesoraco off as Cincinnati's regular catcher. But attrition at the position, and recent history, dictates a readiness for anything.

"I hope Devin plays every day," Barnhart said. "But you don't know. I'm preparing to be able to play every day, if need be."

A hip injury limited Mesoraco to 23 games behind the plate, including nine starts. In June, he had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in the left hip. Brayan Pena moved up and started a team-leading 84 games at catcher, with Barnhart picking up 67 starts.

Video: CIN@MIL: Barnhart singles home Bruce in the 4th

The Reds and Mesoraco expect that he will be 100 percent recovered when pitchers and catchers report to camp Feb. 18. The big test for his hip will come once spring games begin.

"Not knowing what's going to happen, as far as how much I'm going to play, I'm getting ready to play every day," the 25-year-old Barnhart said. "Whether that ends up being the case or not, I think what I'm doing with my body will help me immensely throughout the season."

Listed at 5-foot-11, Barnhart has dropped to 185 pounds this winter -- about a 13-pound weight loss -- which should help with his endurance.

"Physically, I felt like my best playing weight is around 185 pounds. Physically, I feel better than I have since I was in low [Class] A," Barnhart said. "I'm paying a lot of attention to what I'm putting in my body, nutrition-wise, and I think it's going to pay off."

A switch-hitter, Barnhart batted .252/.324/.326 with three home runs and 18 RBIs over 81 games in 2015. Respected by the pitchers for his game-calling skills, he also caught five of the team's eight shutouts.

Video: STL@CIN: Barnhart singles to center, plates Bruce

Cincinnati made a hard transition last season from a veteran rotation to one filled with rookies. The team struggled throughout the second half and went 20-44 with its all-rookie rotation.

Barnhart had the opportunity to work with young pitchers that had to learn at the Major League level. Many will be back competing for rotation and bullpen spots in camp.

"The experience, we went through so many things with the young staff last year. I think that experience will help so much this year and in the future," Barnhart said. "We will look back and think about that experience we had last year. When we get into trouble, we can realize what we need to do to get out of it and that will help."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Tucker Barnhart, Devin Mesoraco