03/05/2013 7:46 PM ET
Mesoraco demonstrating defensive improvement
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Before the Reds' game against the Angels on Tuesday, manager Dusty Baker was asked how catcher Devin Mesoraco was progressing defensively.
During the game, Mesoraco answered the question himself. In the first inning, with Josh Hamilton batting, Mesoraco fired a pickoff throw to second base that nailed Howie Kendrick for the third out. In the third inning, Mesoraco caught Mike Trout attempting to steal second base, also for the third out.
"He's getting better," Baker said before the game. "He's working, not only defensively. He's getting better throwing, he's getting better receiving, he's getting better hitting. When we started last year, there's a lot a catcher has to think about.
"Sometimes, you get overwhelmed with all the things you're supposed to do as a catcher, especially as a young catcher. You just want to see progress, that's all."
Mesoraco, 24, struggled especially with the bat last season as he batted .212 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 54 games. This spring, he is competing with veteran Miguel Olivo for the No. 2 spot behind Ryan Hanigan.
When asked if he would have kept Mesoraco in Triple-A when camp broke last season if he could have a do-over, Baker defended the decision to keep him in the Majors.
"We were told that Devin was ready by our people that saw him," Baker said. "It's easy to say after the fact you'd do it [differently]. It's the easiest thing in the world to say. We won 97 games even though Devin struggled, which is pretty good. We lacked overall offensive output from our catchers, which we had gotten accustomed to with Ramon [Hernandez] and Hanigan."
Mesoraco was 1-for-2 against the Angels with a fourth-inning single to left field. He is batting .385 (5-for-13) this spring.
Cozart catching up, finding spring swing
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Reds shortstop Zack Cozart isn't worried about hitting Spring Training home runs. All he's cared about lately is getting ahold of a pitch and doing some damage.
Cozart snapped a 1-for-14 skid to start spring on Monday with a homer to left field against D-backs starter Brandon McCarthy.
"Obviously, I haven't hit the way I've wanted to so far," Cozart said on Tuesday. "I'm not going up there trying to do too much. I'm trying to get my timing back. Yesterday was a product of me being on time and putting a good swing on it. It feels good not just to hit a home run, but to hit the ball hard and getting that feel for hitting the ball hard. That's what Spring Training is all about."
During a 1-for-2 day on Tuesday vs. the Angels, Cozart lined a second-inning double to left field in his first at-bat.
Cozart, 27, batted .246 with 15 homers and 35 RBIs in 138 games last season during his rookie year. He has the added security of knowing he'll likely be the regular shortstop in the long term with prospect Billy Hamilton being moved to center field and Didi Gregorius traded to Arizona in the offseason.
"In the past, I've had to come in and hit well and prove to Dusty [Baker, manager] and Walt [Jocketty, general manager] that I could play," Cozart said. "Now they know what they're getting from me, I am thinking I'm going to improve that much more. It's easier to use Spring Training for what it's for -- getting ready for April 1."
Corcino following in footsteps of mentor Cueto
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Reds pitching prospect Daniel Corcino has often drawn comparisons to a younger Johnny Cueto. Corcino -- who is Dominican, like Cueto -- doesn't mind because he considers the Reds' ace one of his mentors.
"I watch how he pitches, and always, he's teaching me what to do," Corcino said. "He said when you're young that you need to learn from a veteran guy. He taught me how to pitch in [different] counts. He said it's different in the Minor Leagues when they'll swing at any pitch. Up there, you have to focus so much with every pitch you throw."
A 22-year-old right-hander, Corcino is rated by MLB.com as the fourth-best 2013 prospect in the Reds' organization. He was 8-8 with a 3.01 ERA in 26 starts last season at Double-A Pensacola. In 143 1/3 innings, he walked 65 and struck out 126 batters.
In three spring games, Corcino has a 6.75 ERA with three runs allowed in four innings of work. He pitched one perfect inning vs. the D-backs on Monday but gave up two runs and four walks in his previous outing against Arizona.
"The comparison is he's like a young Johnny Cueto. Cueto was more refined and throwing strikes in the strike zone at Double-A," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Tuesday.
Cueto debuted in the Majors in 2008 after only 10 Double-A starts and four Triple-A starts under his belt. But there are similar stats. Corcino is 28-28 with a 3.57 ERA in 112 Minor League games with 26 homers and 161 walks allowed and 400 strikeouts. Cueto was 32-23 with a 3.26 ERA in 91 games with 27 homers and 114 walks with 439 strikeouts.
This is Corcino's second big league camp, and he's been one of the several young pitchers who benefit from the extended time learning from instructor Mario Soto. Several Reds pitchers have developed their changeup under the guidance of Soto.
"My changeup is much better now from working with Mario Soto," Corcino said. "Everything, my mechanics and changeup, will be better this season."