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Sisco seizes chance with homer in first AB

Catcher competing for starting role on Opening Day; 7 pitchers to debut Sunday
@JoeTrezz
February 23, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Chance Sisco knows he’s getting a second one this spring, and he’s not wasting any time seizing it. For evidence, look no further than Sisco’s three-run homer Saturday, which sent the Orioles running to a 7-2 Grapefruit League-opening win over the Twins at Ed Smith Stadium. The

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Chance Sisco knows he’s getting a second one this spring, and he’s not wasting any time seizing it.

For evidence, look no further than Sisco’s three-run homer Saturday, which sent the Orioles running to a 7-2 Grapefruit League-opening win over the Twins at Ed Smith Stadium. The blast, off right-hander Chase DeJong, came on the third pitch of the first at-bat of a camp Sisco enters with a lot to prove.

“I think it’s just good to be in the box and see some pitches,” Sisco said afterwards. “I don’t think the results are as important for me right now as much as it is putting together good at bats.”

The reality, though, is that Sisco has a job waiting for him in Baltimore should those results come. Of the five catchers in the fold this spring (plus one yet to arrive), none can match Sisco’s combination of age and offensive ceiling.

The only problem is how little of that ceiling Sisco showed a year ago, after riding a torrid Spring Training to a spot on the club’s Opening Day roster. He cratered from there, hitting .181 with a 58 OPS+ in 63 games at the big league level, and subsequently slumping back at Triple-A.

After the season, Sisco returned home with the intention of “flushing everything that happened last year, and use it to my advantage.” That included time for reflection, as well as mechanical tweaks to a swing that once rated him the Orioles’ top prospect. Still just 23, the Orioles know there is plenty of time for him to tap into that potential.

“It’s just fun to get back out there,” Sisco said. “You always get the butterflies going out there for the first one. To be able get the first inning out of the way, first at-bat out of the way, and come out with a hit, it’s all fun after that.”

Pitching plans

Six more hurlers are set to make their spring debuts Sunday against the Blue Jays, behind starter David Hess: RHP Dillon Tate, RHP Gabriel Ynoa, RHP Cody Carroll, RHP Branden Kline, LHP Tanner Scott and LHP Sean Gilmartin. Of that group, Carroll, Kline and Scott, in particular, could put themselves in line for spots in the O’s Opening Day bullpen with strong showings in Grapefruit League play.

The Orioles also announced right-hander Nate Karns will start Monday at Minnesota. It will mark the first game action in nearly a year for Karns, who missed all of 2018 with elbow problems.

The club will wait until later in the week for its three veteran starters -- Alex Cobb, Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner -- to debut, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.

Though he could remain sidelined in Venezuela due to visa issues for several more weeks, Jesus Sucre’s lateness won’t impede his chance of making the club, Hyde said. He added that the club received “serious positive signs” regarding Sucre’s status on Saturday, though he did not elaborate. Sucre, 30, signed a Minor League deal in January and was expected to push Sisco for the starting catcher job. Sucre appeared in 135 games for the Rays from 2017-18, mostly in a backup role.

“He’s got a ton of Major League innings under his belt,” Hyde said. “He’s caught in this division and caught in the American League. If we get him two-three weeks of preparation, I think he’ll be fine.”

Times are a-changin'

Hyde has also eliminated the facial hair policy that existed under Buck Showalter, which makes sense given the new skipper himself often sports a full beard. Several Orioles are taking advantage this spring, including Chris Davis, reliever Paul Fry, outfielder DJ Stewart, catchers Austin Wynnes and Andrew Susac (mustache) and a host of others.

What’s in a name?

In what amounts to bookkeeping, several Orioles players requested name presentation alterations for the 2019 season. The changes are as follows:

INF Christopher Bostick (instead of Chris)

OF Yusniel Diaz (no accents)

RHP Nate Karns (Nathan)

3B Renato Núnez

C Caros Pérez

RHP Yefry Ramirez (no accents)

3B/OF Rio Ruiz (no accents)

OF DJ Stewart (no periods)

UTIL Stevie Wilkerson (instead of Steve)

RHP Mike Wright (no Jr.)

RHP Gabriel Ynoa

OF Eric Young, Jr.

Up next

The competition continues when the Orioles host the Blue Jays in their second Grapefruit League game, set for Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET at Ed Smith Stadium. Hess will be opposed by right-hander Sean Reid-Foley, who pitched to a 5.13 ERA in seven starts as a rookie for Toronto in 2018.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.