Bryan Price told reporters yesterday that the clubÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plan for Devin Mesoraco has evolved. After the catcher visited a specialist in New York City, the club believes they could put off MesoracoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hip surgery, have him learn how to play left field in the next few weeks and contribute to the Reds lineup later this season.
That sounds like a reasonable plan. Here’s why:
MesoracoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Health Catching is off the table for Mesoraco in 2015. But hitting, running and catching apparently arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. Aside from using the Big Apple specialist to confirm the underlying diagnosis of hip impingement, the second most important issue to discuss was whether playing the outfield would aggravate MesoracoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s condition.
As aÃ‚Â reminder, hip impingement is when the two hip bones rub together, causing pain and damage to the soft labrum in between the bones. The jeopardy in continuing to play Mesoraco, even in the outfield, is that further impingement could worsen damage to the labrum, risking speedy and full recovery. Surely, the NYC doc signed off on Mesoraco in left field.
But even if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t trust the Reds staff, Mesoraco wouldn’t sign off on the plan if he thought it would further injure him. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the one, after all, who said Ã¢â‚¬Å“no moreÃ¢â‚¬Â to the idea of catching after the botched test run in Kansas City. We know Mesoraco will stop if it hurts because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s already done it.
So letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s assume that Mesoraco can play left field, bat and run the bases without further aggravating his hip condition, or that if it does start to hurt, he can shut it down right away. That means minimal-to-no additional risk to his health.
Recovery Time Experts agree that 4-6 months is the standard time for full recovery from arthroscopic hip surgery, the type Mesoraco will eventually have. The fact that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a professional athlete with a support staff and daily regimen should enhance the chance of recovering at the near-term end of that range. Mesoraco strikes me as a guy who wants to play badly and will do every bit of rehab possible.
If the Reds do wait until October 1 for the surgery, four months puts him at fully recovered on February 1, two weeks before pitchers and catchers arrive to Goodyear for the 2016 season. But if his recovery takes six months, that means April 1.
The simple answer to this is for the Reds to order the surgery around August 15-September 1. That gives Mesoraco closer to the full cushion.
The Reds have said they plan for Mesoraco to play outfield in 2015, not necessarily for all of 2015. They could let him work on learning the outfield in June and July and then have the surgery on August 1.
One great unknown in his recovery is that Mesoraco plays catcher. Regrowth of the bone spurs should take years, not something that would bring about an immediate relapse. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s relevant to the question of whether Mesoraco should return to the catching position at all, not the medium-term question of whether he can recover from surgery in 4-6 months.
Benefits of the 2015 Tryout Mesoraco would first go on a minor league rehab assignment, then join the Reds active roster. There are two categories of benefits for the Reds plan, short-term and long-term.
MesoracoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bat would help the team this year. We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how long it will take for Marlon Byrd to recover from his fractured wrist and how that injury might affect his power. The Byrd injury gives the Reds a pretext to give Mesoraco playing time in left field, maybe even over a healthy Byrd. Mesoraco will certainly hit better than any of the alternatives, including Byrd. Imagine the added punch to the Reds lineup if he could return to his 2014 bashing ways.
For the long term, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s smart for the Reds to determine sooner rather than later how well Mesoraco adapts to playing the outfield. Learning that during the regular season, with live game conditions, seems like the surest and quickest way to find out. The alternative would be surgery now and have Mesoraco learn left field during the offseason. During the regular season, he would be under the daily care of the Reds medical and training staff. If the Reds get their answer one way or another, it could inform future trade or roster moves.
The Reds insist they are looking only for the short-term payoff of MesoracoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bat in the lineup in 2015. Price said: “If he can’t catch and he can only be a pinch-hitter, his value is so limited that it wouldn’t make sense to take up that roster spot if that’s all he can do. If he can play the outfield a bit capably, it’s a way to get him in the lineup every now and again and let his bat do some influence for our club.”
MesoracoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s experience and production in the outfield will have an impact on the equation, however. “What we’re doing is looking at it. We’re not committing to the fact he’s going to be a left fielder,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Price. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But we’re going to look at it before we start talking about 2016 for Devin. We’d like to keep 2015 on the table as an option.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Devin Mesoraco may need to learn how to play left field to prolong his career and not necessarily because of the hip condition. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s had other injuries, like concussions, that are unique to being behind the plate.
It has been suggested that Mesoraco could platoon at catcher with Tucker Barnhart next year with the latter playing against right-handed pitchers, which would be about 75 percent of the games. Mesoraco could play LF in the games that Barnhart catches. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an interesting idea, but one unique to Barnhart being the second catcher. It wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work if Barnhart gets hurt and the next backup was right-handed.
ConclusionÃ‚Â Defending the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ decision-making regarding
anything medical issues qualifies for hazard pay these days.
While I doubted the Reds’ optimism that they could manage Mesoraco’s condition to the point where he could return to catching this season, I did think their plan to use him as a DH in AL cities was sound. Then the Reds – Walt Jocketty? Bryan Price? – decided the very week Mesoraco was going to DH was the right time to stress the catcher’s tender hip.
Of course we knowÃ‚Â Mesoraco aggravated his injury in that workout and couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do more than pinch hit, foiling the organizationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best laid plans a month in the making. The term “screw-up” is apt here, only in part because it was popularized by J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.Ã‚Â Mesoraco went on the DL on May 25.
So the Reds record in handling Devin Mesoraco’ hip injury is mixed at best.Ã‚Â But the plan to try him in the outfield in the next few weeks makes sense.