Reds get results with Bako behind dish
Calling games a strength of veteran backup catcher
MILWAUKEE -- Like Forrest Gump might say, catcher Paul Bako and Reds pitchers are getting along "like peas and carrots."Entering Tuesday, all four Reds wins had come with Bako behind the plate. In the five games Bako had caught overall, pitchers had a 3.00 ERA. What's going right? To get the answer, don't ask Bako. "That would be too much self promotion," Bako said. Bako came to the Reds with a reputation for calling good games, and he has a handle on working with young pitchers like Tuesday starter Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez. Manager Dusty Baker wasn't afraid to lavish a little praise on the backup catcher. "That's one of his real strong points. This guy is an outstanding game caller," Baker said. "He knows what's going on all the time. He's been around a long time. It shows you the value of a really good catcher." Bako, who has taken on a more primary role because of injuries to David Ross and Javier Valentin, came into the game vs. Milwaukee batting .294 this season. He was 5-for-10 in the previous three games. "He's done an excellent job for us," Baker said. "I'm happy to be playing, don't get me wrong," Bako said. "[But] not necessarily at the expense of other guys that are dinged up. When you're a backup type of player, it's always fun to get out there and play and contribute to a couple of wins." Valentin has been limited to pinch-hitting duty since he strained his left hamstring Friday. Baker figured to get him back behind the plate Wednesday, because Valentin has had some success vs. Brewers scheduled starter Dave Bush. "It's a situation where you have to take care of Bako, too," Baker said. Bako, who previously played for Baker on the Cubs in 2003-04, signed a Minor League deal with the Reds on Feb. 1 and made the club out of Spring Training. He is a career .234 hitter and got his pro career started with the Reds organization 15 years ago as a fifth-round Draft pick in 1993 before making several stops around the league. The success Bako has had could make for a more difficult roster decision when Ross, eligible to return in time for next Tuesday's game vs. the Cubs, is activated from the disabled list. If the Reds decide to carry three catchers, someone else will have to go to make room.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.