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Mesoraco determined to contribute to club's success

Former first-round Draft pick of Reds had difficulty adjusting to Majors last year

Mesoraco determined to contribute to club's success

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Several Reds had strong years as the team won the National League Central in 2012, and those players could take home good feelings about their personal performances.

Catcher Devin Mesoraco was not one of those guys. After a rough rookie season, he took home lots of video instead.

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"He lost some confidence last year," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It happens. He's not the first young player or older player to see that happen. It's probably the first time he felt like he failed."

Cincinnati's first-round Draft pick in 2007 and a top prospect on his way up through the system, Mesoraco struggled in the Majors. He batted .212 with five home runs and 14 RBIs. Behind the plate, only 17 percent of runners were caught stealing.

In early August, Mesoraco suffered a concussion from a plate collision and bumped an umpire after being ejected. That earned him a two-game suspension. Upon his return, he was optioned back to Triple-A Louisville for 10 days and was barely used when he came back to the big leagues in September.

The Reds did not have Mesoraco on their postseason roster, opting for veteran Dioner Navarro.

When the club was eliminated by the Giants, video scouting manager Rob Coughlin asked Reds players if they needed anything for the winter. Mesoraco requested every inning he caught behind the plate last season. When he went back to the new home he bought in his native Punxsutawney, Pa., he took a week off from working out and hunkered down to study –- mostly himself.

"I watched beginning of the year, middle of the year and end of the year -– a good amount of each to see where I needed to improve," Mesoraco said. "Offensively, he sent me certain swings of mine and I requested some other hitters throughout the league to see what makes them successful. I will try to morph that into my game a little bit."

The workouts resumed and the results can now be seen on Mesoraco's build. He dropped from 229 pounds last season to 214 when he reported to camp this week.

The endgame for the weight loss was to make him a better, and more nimble, catcher.

"I feel like last year without catching as many games in the summer heat, I put on more weight than I would normally want to," Mesoraco said. "I came down here with more of a goal in mind on a couple of things I could change. Defensively, I felt like my positioning in my catching could improve with guys on base.

"I missed a lot of strikes for the pitchers because I was just in a bad position. My butt was up too high and I just wasn't in a comfortable position where I could receive well. That was another reason to lose all the weight. I wanted to be flexible in my lower half. It's always been strong, but I can get too much bulk where I'm not as flexible as I'd like."

For Mesoraco, just 24, it was an adjustment to playing sparingly last season. He played 54 games, with 48 starts, catching mainly No. 4 starter Homer Bailey and No. 5 starter Mike Leake. With veteran Ryan Hanigan back as the primary catcher, it could be the same scenario this season.

"It was frustrating because I want to be out there as much as I can and I need to be out there as much as I can when I'm struggling," Mesoraco said. "It was a catch-22 there."

Although Navarro left as a free agent, the Reds brought in another veteran, signing Miguel Olivo to a Minor League deal. Olivo, who only hit .222 last season for the Mariners, had 12 home runs and 29 RBIs in his 87 games. He could be added competition.

"Sometimes you've got to go backwards," Baker said of Mesoraco's 2012 season. "We're not really sure what will happen this year, either. He's a heck of a talent. But he's very young. Most guys don't come out of high school and catch. Buster Posey came out of college. That's four years where he had more experience.

"Joe Morgan was saying it's tough for a young player, especially a young catcher, to come in when the team is winning. It's easier to come in on a second-division losing team because you can wait on them, help them. But when you're trying to win, the guys are into themselves and winning and doing their job."

Baker considered Mesoraco to be one of the more unselfish players he's been around, since he's been worried about his pitchers and winning more than his own performances.

This season, Mesoraco would like to be one of the players contributing to the team while feeling good about his own efforts.

"Last year I didn't feel like I helped the team win too many games and I was really hard on myself about that," Mesoraco said. "Whenever I go home at night, I'd like to say I helped the team win because that's a good day for me."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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