It was two weeks ago when I first wrote aboutÃ‚Â Devin Mesoraco’s tragic hip injury. Here’s the abridged version that leaves out the ugly medical details:
(1) Hip impingements are related to bone growth and therefore generally not responsive to non-surgical treatments or management, so surgery is the likely course of action.
(2) If it’s only the act of squatting that causes Mesoraco pain, the Reds can use him as a hitter. That means a pinch hitting role until the inter-league games in AL cities begin. Then theÃ‚Â Reds should deploy him as a designated hitter. Eight of their ten games in AL parks take place in the next 17 days. The other two are in mid-June.
(3) Mesoraco could undergo surgery later in the season and still have plenty of time to fully recover for spring training next February. Mesoraco has recently been saying rehab time is four months, and that’s probably optimistic. But the outer bound is likely 6 months. So surgery in July would give him a comfortable margin.
(4) With surgery, Mesoraco’s chances of returning to pain-free health are good.
Now, two weeks later, it appears that speculation has proven accurate. The Reds fired off a prayer, hoping with a couple weeks of rest Mesoraco’s pain might calm down and he could return to catching. But with Mesoraco’s admission this weekÃ‚Â that surgery was looking likely, the Hail Mary fell incomplete. The young catcher hasn’t even been able to test his hipÃ‚Â by catching a simulated game.Ã‚Â AndÃ‚Â as the Reds head to Chicago to face the White Sox this weekend, it appears that Mesoraco will be used as a designated hitter.
Questioning how the team handles injuries to its players has become as much of a signifier for a Cincinnati Reds fan as participating in the Opening Day parade. From both a medical and roster standpoint, the organization’s record has been the subject of withering criticism. Outrage reached peak fury with the bungling of Joey Votto’s knee injury in the summer of 2012. The team’s ill-advised deference to Votto’s own word about how he was feeling proved costly. The impact was felt not just in 2012, but also 2013 and 2014. Votto now – finally – appears clear from the fallout.
Another consequence ofÃ‚Â that incident and others like it has been the loss of credibility for the organization. Skepticism has become a knee-jerk reaction to any medical or roster decision about a player. It’s hard to argue that reaction is unjustified.
As you might expect, plenty of carping has taken place with the way the team has handled Devin Mesoraco’s hip injury. But much of that second-guessing is misplaced.
The most common criticism has been that the Reds should have put Mesoraco on the DL right away. The reasoning goes that the team could have promoted a player from AAA and not been shorthanded on the bench. Mesoraco has hardly pinch hit at all since he was diagnosed.
But who would be better? There is no Kris Bryant or even Kris Negron ready to make the trip from Louisville to the Great American Ball Park.Ã‚Â For that player to have hadÃ‚Â a larger impact than Mesoraco, he not only would have to be a better hitter, but he would have had to play in the field. The reality is that anyone who was called up would have been primarily used as a pinch hitter. And none of the candidates have the major league track record of Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco’s lack of at bats — six plate appearances in the past four weeks — has been due mainly to the absence of opportunities to pinch hit, especially the last couple weeks.
John Fay suggested the theoryÃ‚Â that if the Reds had put Mesoraco on the DL right away, he could be getting regular at bats at the minor league level, preparing him to DH this weekend in Chicago. But as Fay points out, that would have taken amazing foresight and again, it would have actually weakened Bryan Price’s bench. And following that course would have meant foregoing the chance – albeit a small one – that Mesoraco could get back behind the plate after a short rest.
Those calling for Mesoraco to return to playing behind the plate don’t appreciate that hip impingement isn’t solely a pain tolerance question. Every time Mesoraco squats and the bones rub against each other, he could be doing greater damage to his cartilage. That would lengthen his recovery time and jeopardize his return to full health. The Reds were right not to have him try catching. This is a case where the pain is saying something important.
One loose thread in this process was the bizarre radio interview on April 29 when Walt Jocketty said he expected Mesoraco to be back catching in a week or ten days, certainly within two weeks. It’s really hard to square that statement in light of what we know now about the lack of progress of the catcher’s condition.Ã‚Â Was someone really giving the Reds general manager reason to believe Mesoraco was about to return? The Reds medical and health staff did seem to be telling people they believed they could manage Mesoraco’s condition. But thatÃ‚Â reported confidence of the Reds medical staffÃ‚Â seems to have been misplaced.
Other than the miscommunication or misunderstanding that led to Jocketty’s perplexing answer,Ã‚Â it does appear that in keeping Mesoraco on the active roster and in delaying the surgery, the Reds are getting it right. Mesoraco gets his chance to contribute withÃ‚Â 50-60 plate appearances in May and June. Then he’ll have corrective arthroscopic surgery and begin the process of getting ready for 2016.
[Tom Diesman is on vacation the next two weeks. His column will return on May 21.]