CINCINNATI -- Devin Mesoraco's journey to the major leagues was relatively short. But every minute he spends with his mind on baseball is for one reason: that he never has to make the trip again.
From here on, his focus is on getting better with every pitch he catches and every swing he takes.
"This is where I was expected to be," the Punxsutawney native said Monday in the clubhouse at The Great American Ballpark, prior to the Cincinnati Reds' 7-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. "Now my job goes from trying to get here to trying to help this team win. That's really all I have been focused on. I'm just working hard and trying to learn from the veterans who have been here for a while."
Mesoraco was the Reds' first-round selection in the 2007 amateur draft, and it took him only five seasons to go from a fresh-out-of-high-school star to a member of a major league team.
He is technically Cincinnati's backup catcher, but that is probably written in pencil -- he blazed his way through the minor leagues and ended up as one of the top-ranked prospects in baseball. In its baseball preview edition, Sports Illustrated listed Mesoraco as the "rookie to watch" in the National League Central Division, and Baseball America ranked him the No. 1 prospect in the Cincinnati organization.
But Mesoraco brushes that stuff aside.
"I just worry about what I have to do," he said. "I need to get my body prepared and get my mind prepared. I'm just out here working hard and trying to be the best I can be."
If Mesoraco was an outfielder, he might not have to focus so much on his defense as he does. But being a catcher, calling the right pitches and fielding his position is more important than hitting.
So the 23-year-old spends a lot of time going over the mental aspect of catching. He talks with his pitchers and tries to learn their preferences, and he spends a lot of time on fielding drills, hoping to become an asset behind the plate.
"It's definitely something that doesn't get accomplished right away," Mesoraco said. "But if I get in there and study as much as I can about opposing hitters and what makes our guy successful, maybe they'll see that and they'll respect that and give me some credit."
As for his hitting, Mesoraco said he's not too concerned with impressing everyone at the plate.
The fact is, with guys such as Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce in the meat of the Reds' lineup, there's no pressure on Mesoraco to hit .300 or drive in 75 runs.
"The middle of our order is going to score some runs, we all know that," he said. "I've just got to hold my own. Hitting is something that won't be there every day, but the mental part, my ability to call a game, that has to be there every day."
Mesoraco did not play in Monday night's game, the Reds' fourth of the season. He did play Saturday and went 1-for-3, but six-year veteran Ryan Hanigan has started the other three games.
Reds manager Dusty Baker apparently doesn't want to talk about his plans with his hot prospect. According to a story in Sunday's Cincinnati Enquirer, the veteran manager bristled when asked when Mesoraco would be playing.
"Why does everybody want to know? I'm serious. Why?" Baker asked.
Baker didn't really answer the question, but he did go on to explain a little, suggesting Mesoraco might catch a day game played hours after a night game, or vice versa.
"I've got to break Mesoraco in much like we did with Hanigan with Ramon (Hernandez)," he said. "In spring training, I had them catch (every pitcher). Some of it's going to be day after night. This is how we've started."
Nonetheless, Mesoraco knows his mission, and he's working hard to make a career for himself.
He's not concerned about his statistics or what the scouts think about him based on his days in the minors. And he's not getting caught up in the trappings of a major league job, where everything is handed to you -- except a starting job.
"It's everything I hoped it would be," he said of his career so far. "But I don't get caught up in all this stuff. I'm here for work. I have a job to do. All my focus is on doing what I need to do in order to play. All this other stuff is nice, but they're little perks that I'm not worried about."