GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan's mask and shin guards are not going to collect cobwebs in the dugout this season. Manager Dusty Baker said as much earlier in camp, but no one definitively knows how much Hanigan will get to play. You know who isn't worried about it? Hanigan.
"I'm not going to dwell on playing time or anything like that," he said. "Obviously, I'd like to get into a little bit of a groove and get into a rhythm for the season. I've played both roles throughout my career. I've started and been a split-time guy, and whatever works is what the situation will be. I'm sure it will come down to production, and if the team is winning. At the end of the day, it's not rocket science." Hanigan, 31, batted .267 with six home runs and 31 RBIs last season while playing a career-high 91 games in a catching tandem with Ramon Hernandez. The Hernandez-Hanigan pairing was mostly successful for three seasons.
Hernandez was not retained to make way for prospect Devin Mesoraco, but the tandem system appears to remain in some fashion."I don't know how it's going to play out," Baker said. "A lot of it depends on what kind of progress Mesoraco shows. If he continues on the path, he's the catcher of the future, big time. When that future is, it's undecided." Unlike Mesoraco, a former first-round pick and top organizational prospect, Hanigan was an undrafted free agent when Cincinnati signed him in 2002. He grinded his way up through the farm system before breaking through to the Majors near the end of 2007. Hanigan's first full big league season was 2009, after the Reds had moved on from the likes of Jason LaRue, David Ross and Javy Valentin. Hanigan emerged, in part, because Baker liked how he handled himself and the pitchers, and the way he called games. "When I first got here, he wasn't real high on the depth chart," said Baker, who joined the Reds in 2008. "When I first got here, he was one of the guys that paid the most attention. He's one of the guys that knew most of the answers when I asked questions. He's one of the guys that really got the signs." During Spring Training last year, personal stability finally came Hanigan's way when he was signed to a three-year, $4 million contract through the 2013 season. "It was a long road for me," Hanigan said. "I had some good seasons that maybe were overlooked. When Dusty, Walt [Jocketty] and those guys got here, they gave me an opportunity. I was very fortunate, but I felt like I was ready. I definitely wanted to show people what I can do. I still feel that way. I am very hungry." No matter how playing time was divided in the past, Hanigan was always Bronson Arroyo's regular catcher. Clearly, Hanigan will get to work behind the plate more than once every five days. To help prepare, he put on weight in the offseason, and feels better and stronger coming into the season. "I feel like I have a lot to prove," Hanigan said. "I feel like I'm getting better every year. I still haven't reached my peak. I'm very confident. I trained to catch a lot of games. Whether that happens or not? We'll see. My main concern is winning games. I have a contract. I'm in a stable situation. I want to win. We have a team that can win." Hanigan made one thing crystal clear. He is a supporter of Mesoraco's, and is not competing against him. To him, it's the only way the duo can be successful this season. "It shouldn't be looked at as a competition between me and him," Hanigan said. "It should be looked at as we're teammates working together, trying to get the team ready to go. If people want to make more of it, that's their business. We're working together, and we're going to try and help this team win...It's fairly simple from our end. Devin is working hard to get himself ready. I'm sure I can help him, and other guys can help him, and we'll just see how it goes."