Cincinnati Reds start season with two-headed catcher

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

After pushing Gold Glove winner Tucker Barnhart as the starting catcher for the Cincinnati Reds, Opening Day causes confusion.

Tucker Barnhart started the game for the Cincinnati Reds.  That was never in doubt as he is starting the season chasing a second consecutive Gold Glove.  He didn’t finish the game, however.

When the game was on the line in the ninth inning, the Reds went to back-up catcher Devin Mesoraco.  This wasn’t because of a defensive situation.  With Barnhart leading off, the Reds used Mesoraco to pinch hit for him.

Leading off the inning, maybe the Reds would have preferred Phil Ervin, but he was already in the game in a double switch.  However, they still had Phil Gosselin and Cliff Pennington on the bench.  With Jose Peraza still due up, Mesoraco could have been used with a runner on base.

Barnhart started the game batting sixth.  He was ahead of both Jose Peraza and Billy Hamilton.  The Reds weren’t pinch hitting for a bottom of the order batter.

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That’s what made this so unusual.  When a batter is starting that high in the order, it is usually because the team has faith that he can carry his own offensive weight.  Pinch-hitting for Barnhart sends the whole catcher line-up into  a spiral that no one wants to see.

The Cincinnati Reds don’t need any more confusion on a cluttered roster.

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Heading into the first game there was no doubt who was the starting catcher.  Barnhart had won the National League Gold Glove last season.  All the Reds needed to do was to maintain the status quo.

Now that is in flux.  Using one to pinch hit for the other places the balance in question.  Mesoraco wasn’t even clearly the better offensive catcher last year.

The one thing that may have necessitated this change in batters is the presence of Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle.  He is a left-handed pitcher.

Usually Barnhart does just fine against left-handed pitchers.

Mesoraco, however, does very well against lefties.  Perhaps, the Reds wanted Mesoraco to bat against Doolittle.

Again, though, Peraza was due up second and Barnhart does well getting on base.  It is not normal to pinch hit for a decent OBP batter down two in the ninth.  The change did not match the situation.

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This is just another case of manager Bryan Price making an unusual decision when the normal one will suffice.  He has been here long enough to understand that.  Price just needs to let the players play.