After third concussion, Reds’ Mesoraco looking at adjustments

Devin Mesoraco may try new catching equipment.

GOODYEAR, AZ. — It was early in the game and Kansas City Royals catcher Erik Kratz took a foul tip off his mask, a hazard of the position but irritating nonetheless.

So when Kratz came to bat he fouled one off the mask of Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco.

Tit for tat and take that.

"He took his foul tip the inning before so I think he was mad and gave me some payback, I guess," Mesoraco said with a laugh.

The problem with Mesoraco’s contact with the baseball is that it resulted in a mild concussion which will take him out of exhibition games for at least a week, which is concussion protocol mandated by Major League Baseball.

It is Mesoraco’s third concussion, but his first from a foul tip and he said, "The other two, 2010 and 2012, were from collisions at home plate."

With new rules, collisions at home plate have all but been eliminated. But there is no rule against foul tips.

So what are the alternatives, other than wearing Sir Lancelot’s suit of armor?

"We may try a heavier grade mask," said Mesoraco, who shuns the hockey-style mask in favor of the old-school strap-on style, which he loves to wear on top of his head when he isn’t receiving pitches. "And they might put some protective stuff inside my helmet. There is a company that provides it."

Instead of more protective equipment, Mesoraco would love it if baseballs would cease from bouncing off his cranium. But that won’t happen behind the plate.

"I never thought I was immune from getting hurt from foul tips but I thought I’d be all right from foul tips because I’ve taken so many. But evidently not," he said.

The problem for Mesoraco is that he can’t do much right now and he is accustomed to doing everything. "I did 20 minutes on the stationary bike this morning, but that’s about all I can do right now. Maybe tomorrow I can walk on the treadmill, I don’t know. I want to get back to work right now, but I can’t do it.

The best thing about it, if there can ever be anything "best" about a concussion, is that it happened early in the exhibition season, giving him recovery time. Last year he left camp on the disabled list with an oblique problem.

"At least it happened early so we can get rid of it and I can be ready to go," he said. "It is definitely tough to sit back and not do anything, that’s for sure. This is the time of year when you can get a lot of work in. But I was feeling good coming into camp, so I’m not too worried.

"You hear more and more about (concussions), but other guys have them and come back," he said.

Multiple concussions, though, have caused problems down the road for athletes, especially in pro football. Asked if that concerned him, Mesoraco said, "You can’t control what happens out there. I just try go out there. And nothing is going to stop me from playing."

Mesoraco, 26, had a breakout season in 2014 despite missing Opening Day with the oblique problem and missed some time in May with a hamstring issue. In 114 games he hit 25 home runs and drove in 80 runs and made the All-Star team.

"There is always a concern with anyone who suffers a concussion," said manager Bryan Price. "It is a front and center issue in professional sports, particularly in light with what is happening in football and the law suit against the NFL.

"There is definitely a concern, but at this point I don’t feel as if the sky is falling," said Price. "And I don’t have any information to suggest that there is a point of concern for long-term residual concerns about Devin."

Ironically, there was a table set up in Goodyear Ballpark Sunday afternoon during a game against Seattle on the concourse behind third base. There was a sign on the front that read, "Remember Ryan Freel," and the table contained photographs of one-time Reds infielder/outfielder. Freel suffered multiple concussions and ultimately took his own life.