03/14/2013 7:45 PM ET
Mesoraco continues strong push for backup role
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Devin Mesoraco started behind the dish against the Mariners on Thursday, singling in his first at-bat to improve his spring batting average to .500 (9-for-18) with two homers and 10 RBIs.
"He's not only hit the ball -- he's thrown well, he's caught well," manager Dusty Baker said of Mesoraco, who is competing for a backup catching spot with Miguel Olivo. "He's really improved, big time. He's more confident. Throughout his career, Devon's second year at [every] level has always been better."
Mesoraco was the Reds' first-round Draft pick (15th overall) in 2007, and after a short season that year at Rookie Ball, he played two full seasons of Class A ball, a season split between Class A, Double-A, and Triple-A, and two seasons split between Triple-A and the Majors. He played 54 games for the Reds in 2012.
"When we got this guy, he wasn't [Buster] Posey, who went to college," Baker said. "He came out of high school, so there's a lot to learn, not only hitting-wise, but a lot to learn catching, blocking, throwing, all kinds of stuff."
Burriss enjoying fresh start in Cincinnati
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Emmanuel Burriss' fresh start with the Reds after seven years in the Giants' organization meant breaking in a pair of fresh gloves, one for the infield, where he's played 255 games in parts of five big league seasons, and one for the outfield, where he's played two.
"I had to get rid of all my gloves, because they were all black and orange," Burriss said. "Last year, I had a third baseman's glove, and I think I borrowed someone's first baseman's glove from the Minors and kept it all season long. But now I just stick with my infielder's and outfielder's glove."
Burriss has played every position on the diamond except pitcher, catcher, and center fielder, but even as he prepares for his sixth big league season and competes for what he hopes will be his third Opening Day roster slot, he can't scrounge up a glove with his name on it.
"I talked to SSK [last year], and I wanted them to just give me a nice glove that I could fiddle around with, see what size I wanted," Burriss said. "So they sent me that one, and it said 'Pro Stock Model' or something on it, and everybody gave me a hard time, because it's like my fourth year in the bigs and I can't get a glove with my name on it. It was kind of like how things went last year, honestly, because I wasn't able to get that many at-bats. I kind of kept under the radar across the league."
Burriss was the Giants' Opening Day second baseman in 2009 and made the roster in a backup role after competing for the starting job again in 2012, but he made only 60 appearances with the World Champions, and when they outrighted him to the Minors after the season, he opted to sign a Minor League contract with the Reds, despite knowing the club had an infield stacked with Gold Glove Award nominees Jay Votto at first, Brandon Phillips at second and Zack Cozart at short.
"It's not a bad thing, being able to come out and work everything, rather than battle [last year] for a position that I probably wasn't going to get anyway, no matter how well I did," Burriss said. "It feels good to come in and focus on getting work in where I need to every day, rather than coming in and just trying to outperform somebody and not really working on anything that's going to help me throughout the season."
Burriss' rookie campaign was cut short when he broke his left toe in July 2009, and he was further slowed by a fractured left foot in Spring Training in 2010, limiting him to seven big league games that season. The challenge of being seen as an everyday player again eluded him in San Francisco, but he comes to Cincinnati with a clear understanding of his role.
"He was a starting shortstop before he got hurt, and then he was a starting second baseman and he got hurt again," manager Dusty Baker said. "He's got skills. He's very athletic, he's got speed, which is really needed around here. He hustles, and he can play a number of different positions. We need to get more athletic, and there aren't many athletes available."
Burriss is competing with Jason Donald and Cesar Izturis for a utility infielder job that is one of the more competitive battles this spring.
"Realistically, Donald has the upper hand because he doesn't have any options and he's on the roster," Baker said. "Izturis and Burriss are playing great, but they're going to have to play lights-out."
Minus one pitch, Homer content with performance
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Homer Bailey had a turbulent outing against the Mariners on Thursday, despite leaving with a four-run lead. He gave up a double and the first of two homers to Michael Morse on a day the Reds' staff was pegged for three long balls in a slugfest that found Cincinnati falling off the pace after Bailey left the mound.
"We executed a lot of pitches, got a lot of ground balls, which is what we were looking for," Bailey said. "One pitch, we kind of left middle that hasn't landed yet, but other than that, I feel pretty good."
Manager Dusty Baker agreed, saying Bailey pitched "really well," and that the problem was the Mariners' one-man attack from their cleanup hitter who scored the M's first run after his second-inning double, then plated the next two runs with his deep drive to left-center in the fourth. Morse finished 3-for-3 with five RBIs after mistreating Clay Hensley with a three-run shot in the fifth .
"Too much Morse today," Baker said. "We're pitching him wrong, evidently. Those balls were hit like a two-iron."
Bailey was tagged for three runs on six hits in four innings, and was able to challenge himself by using offspeed stuff in critical fastball counts.
"We mixed it up really well," Bailey said. "Probably threw some breaking balls that we wouldn't have thrown normally in certain counts, but it's good to have those in-action counts to be able to throw. It's a big count, you need a strike, you need a quality pitch. Let's throw it now, so in the season, if it's an important time in the game, you know, 'OK, I'm comfortable with this pitch.'"
• As manager Dusty Baker pushes the Reds to resolve Aroldis Chapman's status as either a starter or closer in the coming days, Chapman's performance on the mound in his scheduled Saturday night start against the Giants is largely irrelevant.
"I don't have to see anything," Baker said. "He's going to be good, either way. It's a matter of what I and we think is best for him and us.
"There's a lot of people affected by this decision. A lot of jobs are affected by this decision. A lot of roles are changed by this decision. I didn't want to go this far. I'd like to ease his mind and stop the questions -- get the rotation together, get the bullpen together, get everything together so guys know what their jobs are. He's kind of the man in the middle, and the man in the middle is a very confusing place to be."
• The Reds No. 1 prospect, center fielder Billy Hamilton, has missed a week of Cactus League play since tweaking his hamstring while stealing a base last Friday, but he is expected back in action this weekend.
"He's better," Baker said. "We're going to play him Saturday, when we have a split-squad [game]."
Hamilton is hitting .111 (2-for-18) with three steals in nine games. He has a .289 average in four Minor League seasons, topping out at Double-A Pensacola in 2012.
• Joey Votto played four innings at first base against the Mariners Thursday in his second game back since playing for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic. He went 0-for-2 and departed relatively early, but Baker indicated that the short outing was anticipated.
"He wasn't feeling good," Baker said. "He's off [Friday], so that's why I just gave him a couple at-bats and took him out. He was just tired and not feeling up to par. No big deal."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.