Reds notebook: Hanigan starts at catcher
PITTSBURGH - Ryan Hanigan is getting the start at catcher against Pittsburgh in the National League Wild Card game, and it wasn't a tough decision for Reds manager Dusty Baker.
Even though Devin Mesaraco led the team with 84 starts this season and has improved his game offensively and defensively, Hanigan will be batting eighth.
He hit just .198 this season but Hanigan led all Major League Baseball catchers with a 3.04 ERA in 2012. His ERA this season was 3.40, the same as Mesoraco's, but he played in just 75 games due to twice being on the disabled list with injuries. Hanigan has caught both of Homer Bailey's no-hitters and been the primary catcher for Cueto, Bailey and Bronson Arroyo in the past.
"There are certain guys that think alike, certain guys that the flow of the game goes because they're on the same page," said Baker. "He's more of a veteran than Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco is still learning how to catch. We have a lot of guys that are in the process of learning, so that was an easy decision. A very easy decision."
Having Mesoraco on the bench gives Baker another right-handed bat option who carries some power. Mesoraco had nine home runs and drove in 42 runs in a career-high 323 at-bats this season. Chris Heisey also had nine home runs but has struck out at a higher rate than Mesoraco this season.
BAD TASTE: Mesoraco was not on last year's postseason roster but was around the clubhouse and dugout as the Reds dropped three straight to San Francisco at home after winning the first two games of the best-of-five NLDS at AT&T Park. The Reds have had to go through 162 games this season to get the opportunity to taste postseason success.
"It's definitely a long time but I don't think, if you asked anybody in this room, that they forget it for one second," said Mesoraco. "It was a heck of a series but we didn't end up coming up on top. We felt how close we were to actually advancing in the playoffs, and we weren't able to do it. I think this time going into it everybody wants it that little bit extra so we can feel what it's like to advance."
Besides Mesoraco, the other Reds making their first postseason appearance are: Shin-Soo Choo, Billy Hamilton, Jack Hannahan and Derrick Robinson.
BULLPEN SESSION: Mat Latos threw a bullpen session prior to Tuesday's game in anticipation to making a start against St. Louis in the NLDS should the Reds beat Pittsburgh. Latos is not on the 25-man roster for the Wild Card game but teams can adjust their rosters after each series. Cueto and Mike Leake are the only starting pitchers on the roster for the Wild Card game.
During a pre-game meeting with beat writers, Baker didn't specify who would be his Game 1 starter against the Cardinals if the Reds advance, instead saying it could be Latos or Bailey. Latos was an option to start this game before he came down with some arm soreness, or "barking" as Baker called it.
TOUGH ON LEFTIES: Pittsburgh starting pitcher Francisco Liriano has been tough on left-handed batters all season, and his numbers against the Reds' trio of Choo, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are no different. Lefties have just 17 hits in 130 at-bats against Liriano this season, and he has not given up a home run to a left-handed batter all season.
Votto has two hits of those hits in 10 at-bats with two walks and two strikeouts. He's one of just six left-handed batters with more than one hit against Liriano this season; Matt Carpenter (St. Louis), Prince Fielder (Detroit), Todd Helton (Colorado), J.B. Shuck (L.A. Angels) and Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs) are the others. Choo is 1 for 12 with one walk and three strikeouts against Liriano, while Bruce is 0 for 11 with six strikeouts against Liriano.
"If you're a left-handed hitter, there's some deception in the delivery," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. "It's not that Sandy Koufax long arm. There's some movements in there. There's some hiding of the ball. The ball comes out from a different spot as far as it's not extended, it can be close to the body, which can cause some deception."
The Pirates also have just two starting pitchers on their 25-man roster. Rookie Gerrit Cole, a righthander, is the other starter and would be the choice for Hurdle if Liriano has troubles early. The Reds have not faced Cole before. He went 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 19
starts this season, giving up 109 hits in 117 1/3 innings.