CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco is very close to returning to the major leagues. In fact, he could be back in time for Thursday night's series finale against the Baltimore Orioles.
That would be huge news, considering Mesoraco hasn't played since last April 27. He has made just 39 appearances and 18 starts the past two seasons due to left shoulder and right hip injuries.
"He's getting the day off today, then we'll reassess about any need for finishing touches he might need before we activate him," Reds manager Bryan Price said Wednesday. "The bigger challenge is just getting him reintroduced to baseball. Can you imagine what it must be like to miss two years? It's got to be a helpless feeling, but I think he understands the importance of being ready."
Mesoraco has made eight appearances during a rehab assignment at Double-A Pensacola. In what was thought to be the final step in his rehab process, Mesoraco caught nine innings Monday and Wednesday. He's just three seasons removed from a 25-homer, 80-RBI season.
Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart has played well both offensively and defensively in Mesoraco's absence, and the team is off to a good start as well, holding on to at least a share of the National League Central lead for 14 straight days.
Cincinnati (9-6) has homered in 12 of 14 games, including four straight. On Thursday, the Reds will face veteran left-hander Wade Miley, who made adjustments in his delivery last year with the help of former Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor.
"I think he's kind of carried over what went on last year," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He knows who he is and attacks the zone. He doesn't overthink it."
Since his chat with McGregor, Miley has slowed down his delivery, helping him have better command of his fastball. Instead of missing over the plate, he's missing off the plate. In two starts this season, Miley is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He's 3-2 with a 4.25 ERA in six career starts vs. Cincinnati.
"With Wade, nothing much bothers him," Showalter said. "He's going to go out there and say, 'Here it is.' He's not going to give the opposition a whole lot of credit. I'll see you in five days. He doesn't spend a lot of time worrying. He's got a good grip on it."
He'll be opposed by Reds right-hander Scott Feldman, who will make his fourth start for Cincinnati on Thursday, facing the Orioles for the 18th time in his career. Feldman, the Reds' Opening Day starter, is 1-2 with a 2.87 ERA in three starts. He is 5-2 with a 4.34 ERA in 17 appearances, including nine starts, vs. the Orioles.
Thursday's rubber game concludes the first interleague series of the season for both teams. Baltimore (9-4) leads the all-time series 7-4, but the Reds own a 3-2 advantage at Great American Ball Park, where the teams hadn't played since 2005 until Tuesday. In 2011, the Reds played in Baltimore for the first time since the 1970 World Series.