Reds catcher Stuart Turner wants to join Andy Dalton as a quarterback in Cincinnati.
“I’ve always related catching to playing quarterback,” said the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Turner, who was an all-district QB at Eunice High School in Louisiana. “You touch the ball every play in football. You control the pace of the game. In baseball, you’re always out there with the pitcher, controlling the pace of the game. You influence every play. That’s kind of what I’ve taken away and enjoyed from the football side of it.”
Turner spent four years in the Minnesota Twins organization after they made him a third-round pick in the 2013 draft after one season at the University of Mississippi, where he was a Louisville Slugger/College Insider.com All-American.
Turner, who caught 62 games, hitting .372 with five home runs and 51 RBI for the Rebels, not only has the physical tools but has a great capacity for learning. He was an Academic All-American with a 4.0 grade-point average in his years at LSU-Eunice before his transfer to Ole Miss.
“You have a lot that goes on pre-pitch, pre-play,” Turner said. “You have to always be thinking ahead.”
Turner played the last two seasons at Chattanooga in the Twins system. The Reds claimed him in the Rule 5 draft for $50,000. They are required to keep him on the 25-man roster all season or offer him back to the Twins for $25,000.
With question marks hovering around the health of Devin Mesoraco and given the young pitching staff, the Reds are gambling Turner can be the first catcher to jump from Class AA to the majors since Tucker Barnhart did it in 2014.
“We get a six- or seven-week look at Turner to see if he can handle a full year of big-league service time,” manager Bryan Price said. “He has to play. We’re not in a place to carry a player just to keep him. He has to have aptitude. He’s got to get better and there has to be a spot. One of the reasons we are excited about him is we don’t feel the need to rush Devin. From a depth perspective, we’re a little short. Turner is a guy that stood out. He has to be able to call a game and handle a pitching staff.”
Turner is learning that now, and he’s not really at a disadvantage among the catchers as 21 of the 36 pitchers in camp weren’t here last year.
“Hopefully, I can relate to those guys and connect on the same level,” Turner said. “I am trying to learn the pitching staff and trying to get better every day to show (the Reds) what I can do. You’d always like to do better than what you’re doing but camp has gone pretty well so far.”
Not known for his bat, Turner hit .223 at Chattanooga in 2015 and .239 last year. The 25-year old is hitting .400 in eight Cactus League games.
Turner is competing with Rob Brantly to be the third catcher behind Barnhart and Mesoraco. Brantly is two years older and not on the 40-man roster. The Reds would have to expose someone on the 40-man roster to waivers to keep Brantly.
• The Reds had three singles in a 9-0 loss to the Angels, their first loss in six games. It wasn’t a great day for starting pitcher Amir Garrett, who gave up five unearned runs and committed an inning-extending error on a ball back to the mound.
“The error on the comebacker was kind of the catalyst,” Price said. “It wasn’t a great outing but he never stopped competing. He got after it. Those are the things we look at. Not every game is going to go the way we want. The way these guys handle themselves in the times things aren’t going their way is equally as important.”
• Newcomer Christian Walker struck out in his first at bat with the Reds. … Turner threw out former Reds farmhand Ryan LaMarre, who tried to advance from first on a ball in the dirt. … Arismendy Alcantara, who made three errors earlier this spring at shortstop, made a slick play on a short hop. … Tony Renda had two highlight plays, turning a line drive into a double play and fielding a hot smash.