If Dusty Baker could hit the rewind button and change the handling of Devin Mesoraco, would he?
The question’s moot, the Reds manager said Tuesday before sending the young catcher out to catch Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman against the high-powered Angels. Cincinnati lost 6-4 at Diablo Stadium.
After hitting a shade under .290 at Triple-A with respectable power numbers in 2011, Mesoraco took a giant step back last year and his confidence was clearly shaken by season’s end.
But Baker said he’s looking ahead when it comes to Mesoraco, who was essentially handed the job behind Ryan Hanigan out of spring training last season.
“We were told that Devin was ready by our people that saw him. It’s easy to say after the fact you would do it over again,” Baker said. “We won 97 games, and Devin struggled, which is pretty good.”
Offensively, Mesoraco has returned with a vengeance, coming into Tuesday’s contest with a team-leading six runs batted in this spring and a pair of homers. He’s facing some stiff competition from veteran Miguel Olivo, but Baker sees Mesoraco making strides.
“Not only on defense, but getting better throwing, getting better at receiving, he’s getting better hitting. I told (everyone) last year, there’s a lot a catcher has to think about,” Baker said. “He probably has to transition as quickly as anybody. When you strike out with the bases loaded, you’ve got to put the right fingers down without thinking about what just happened last inning.”
If this season’s returns are any indication, Mesoraco appears better ready to handle the switch from offense to defense. On Tuesday, after failing to reach on a close play at first base in the second inning, he followed by catching Mike Trout trying to steal in the bottom of the third.
“A lot of people thought Devin was ready last year. But sometimes you get overwhelmed with all the things you’re supposed to do as a catcher, especially a young catcher,” Baker said. “You just want to see progress, that’s all.”
Corcino Coaster: Prospect Daniel Corcino is suffering through what you might expect from a young pitcher’s spring — plenty of ups and downs. After walking four batters against Arizona on Feb. 27, Corcino followed with a solid inning Monday against the Diamondbacks.
“He’s had one bad one and one good one, against the same team,” Baker said. “He’s been inconsistent.”
Corcino has been likened to Johnny Cueto, who jumped from Double-A to the big leagues. But Baker isn’t sure the same jump is appropriate with Corcino.
“Cueto was more refined,” Baker said.
Magic number: It was three Monday for reserve infielder Jack Hannahan, who played third base on his 33rd birthday. After he walked and struck out, Hannahan was hitting .333 for the spring. “That’s funny, I didn’t know that,” Hannahan said Tuesday. “Too bad I was telling everybody I turned 29.”
Upcoming: The Reds play Team Canada today at Goodyear Ballpark, but then have Thursday off, the first of three off days this spring. Baker said he’ll preach a no off-the-field injury mantra to his players, but added he’s looking forward to the rest. “Only thing is when you’re used to getting up at 5:30 in the morning, you’ll probably still get up at 5:30 in the morning,” Baker said.
Extra bases: Jay Bruce found his groove at Diablo, hitting his first homer of the spring in the top of the second inning on an opposite-field shot, then following with another big fly in the fourth to right. … Angels slugger Albert Pujols made his first appearance of the spring on Tuesday, coming back about a week ahead of schedule from knee surgery. That meant Leake was the first pitcher Pujols faced. “You know Albert wouldn’t miss us,” Baker said. The three-time National League MVP broke his bat in his debut, softly grounding out to Todd Frazier. Leake threw three innings of shutout ball and spaced out four hits against a lineup that included Trout, Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo.