CINCINNATI -- Even while playing sparingly the first three weeks of the season, catcher Devin Mesoraco has shown improvement from his struggle-filled rookie year in 2012. Filling in for Ryan Hanigan, Mesoraco entered Sunday with hits in three of the last four games while going 5-for-14 (.357).
Expect to see Mesoraco play regularly now that Hanigan was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday because of a strained left oblique.
"You definitely don't want to see Hani hurt, because he means a lot to the team," Mesoraco said. "But I always felt, and still feel like, I'm an everyday player. If that's what comes of this, I'll jump right in and take care of business."
Mesoraco has also worked well behind the plate with his pitchers. This past week, he caught Mike Leake, Tony Cingrani and Bronson Arroyo -- who gave up a combined three runs over 20 innings.
"Mesoraco is catching better and hitting better," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He just has to control the running game. It's hard to control the running game like Hanigan controlled it."
Batting .212 in 54 games last season, Mesoraco was challenged by not playing regularly for the first time in his life and by the rigors of learning his way in the Majors. His preparation was admittedly not as strong as he wished.
With experience and better understanding, Mesoraco feels like he's prepared himself well for when chances arise.
"I've been working a lot harder and focusing on things I need to focus on during the game," Mesoraco said. "I've done a better job of once we get that third out of the inning, to go in and then focus on my hitting. If I'm not hitting that inning, then I can talk to the pitcher and figure some things out. I've done a better job of compartmentalizing some things to be able to focus on the right stuff."
Oblique, not thumb, sends Hanigan to DL
CINCINNATI -- Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan has been nagged by a sore right thumb for nearly two weeks. But that wasn't the injury that put him on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday.
Hanigan has a strained left oblique, which he apparently injured on Friday vs. the Marlins in the ninth inning.
"He did that on the pitch to [Rob] Brantly when he struck out on a high fastball from [Aroldis] Chapman. [Hanigan] went up to get it," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
To replace Hanigan, the Reds selected the contract of veteran catcher Corky Miller from Triple-A Louisville. Reliever Nick Masset was moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Miller. Devin Mesoraco is likely to get a majority of the starts while Hanigan is out.
Miller, 37, was batting .111 in eight games at Louisville. Although he's spent parts of 10 seasons in the Majors since 2001, he has only 199 games played and is a career .188 hitter. Miller last played in the Majors for Cincinnati in 2010.
What Miller brings is defense and a strong ability to work with pitchers. That's a primary reason why he's remained part of the organization for as long as he has and gets invited to Spring Training each year.
"He knows them all," Baker said. "I expressed to Corky in spring time that, 'You're not a coach yet. You're not far from it, but you're not a coach yet.' He's still a player. He brings a lot to the table. Actually, Corky is Mesoraco's mentor. Whenever he's struggling with a facet of his game, he calls Corky."
Hanigan was batting .079 (3-for-38) and will get the opportunity to rest his thumb as well. His DL stint is the latest in what's been a tough month for injuries around the Reds. Through the first 18 games, left fielder Ryan Ludwick (shoulder surgery), reliever Sean Marshall (shoulder tendinitis), ace Johnny Cueto (right lat strain) and Hanigan are all currently on the DL.
"We just have to keep rolling regardless of all these things happening," Baker said.
Trio of bench players draw start in series finale
CINCINNATI -- The Reds had three role players getting starts on Sunday vs. the Marlins, as Cesar Izturis was in the lineup at shortstop, Jack Hannahan started at third base and Xavier Paul was in left field.
Izturis was scheduled to play anyway, according to manager Dusty Baker, but it became a need after two fingers on Zack Cozart's right hand were hit while he attempted to bunt in the 13th inning of Saturday's 3-2 win. X-rays were negative.
"He can pinch-run. He could possibly hit," Baker said of Cozart. "He doesn't feel the tip of his fingers, and that would make it a little difficult to throw. I'm not going to use him to pinch-bunt, that's for sure."
Hannahan was making his first start of the season at third base in place of Todd Frazier, who was just getting a day off.
"He looked like he was losing his stroke a little bit," Baker said of Hannahan. "His stroke has gotten long. Frazier, I have to spot from time to time. It's a perfect day to get all of them in there."