FORT MYERS, Fla. - The two home runs created the loudest sounds and the most buzz. Chance Sisco muscling up again this afternoon, terrorizing two Red Sox pitchers who have been lauded this spring by their manager for their improvement.
But Sisco lit up - as much as he’s capable with his quiet personality - when asked about the opposite-field single in his final at-bat that scored Rule 5 pick Richie Martin in the Orioles’ 7-6 win at jetBlue Park.
“I love that,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest parts of my game is being able to take that single the opposite way. Hit a line drive the opposite way. That’s just as good. That’s an RBI right there.”
Sisco has eight of them in three exhibition games, beginning with his three-run homer in Saturday’s opener. He’s 4-for-6 and locked in at the plate.
“I’m going to continue to give him at-bats and continue to play him behind the plate,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “It’s confidence. I just want to give him as much confidence as I can and really believe in the guy. He swung the bat great today, so great to see.
“One thing we’ve been talking about is some pull-side power and he’s done that twice now. To see him off a lefty, too. I think we’re taking great strides in a lot of our guys and he’s one of them that we’re just trying to pump confidence into and we believe in him and results were good today.”
“I feel good right now,” Sisco said. “Obviously after a day like that I guess you could say that. But just focusing on having good at-bats, putting the barrel on the ball, like I always say, and trying to have good at-bats.
“I feel really good up there and just trying to stay there as long as possible.”
And remain with the club, which brought six catchers to camp and is awaiting the arrival of veteran Jesús Sucre from Venezuela.
Sisco, 24, worked on his swing and his head in the offseason and it’s carried into spring training. The confidence is back. The ball is jumping off his bat, launching it to center and right-center for two-run homers off Eduardo Rodriguez and Tyler Thornburg and poking it to left against Colten Brewer.
“I talked about that a little bit earlier was the confidence and the mechanical parts,” he said. “Just trying to get in a good position to hit and going from there.”
Hot springs aren’t new to Sisco. He headed north with the Orioles in 2018 after batting .429/.474/.800 in 18 games with five doubles, a triple, two home runs, 10 RBIs and nine runs scored. But there’s the fooler. He slumped at the plate in the majors, slashing .181/.288/.269 in 63 games, and his defensive game eroded.
If there’s a line forming for Orioles needing fresh eyes on them, Sisco could talk his way to the front of it. But he shot down a suggestion that it’s easier for him to play under a new regime.
“It’s just right now everyone’s a little bit relaxed and we’re having fun out there,” he said. “Just going out there and that’s the biggest thing that Hyde’s been talking about is be yourself, have fun, play with your hair on fire and just like that.”
No one is hotter than Sisco, the catcher with the highest offensive ceiling in camp. He could platoon with one of the right-handed hitters, seize the everyday job or return to Triple-A Norfolk, where he was twice demoted last summer while the Orioles sought a less-pressurized environment for him to regroup.
“There were a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “I’m not really focusing on that anymore. I’ve kind of moved past it. Learn from it and move past it.”
Martin also had a big day against the Red Sox with a two-run double, single, walk, stolen base and three runs scored. He also started a nifty double play while second baseman Jack Reinheimer was shifted to the left side and had to race with him toward the bag.
“He really swung the bat well today,” Hyde said. “I feel like he’s been out there quite a bit and he hasn’t had many balls hit to him on defense. We’re still waiting. But he made a couple of nice plays today. Love his actions at shortstop. I think he’s really, really athletic. The ball goes in his glove, he’s got a really good arm and it’s accurate. And to see him put the barrel on two balls today, again, another confidence-builder for him and he’s going to get an opportunity, as well, to keep playing.”
Third baseman Renato Núñez was 2-for-3, but also off-target with at least two of his throws, though he wasn’t charged with an error.
Branden Kline struck out two more batters today after fanning the side in his debut. Tanner Scott rebounded from a poor debut outing by tossing a scoreless inning with two strikeouts and lowering his ERA to 27.00. But Dillon Tate followed a scoreless eighth by allowing two runs with two outs in the ninth.
Starter Gabriel Ynoa served up a long home run to leadoff hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. in the first inning, but came back with a scoreless second.
“I thought he was pretty good,” Hyde said. “He made a bad pitch, the first hitter of the game. Hung an 0-2 changeup obviously he’d like to have back, but after that I thought he pitched well. Threw some good sliders.
“Kind of a veteran guy. I saw him in New York a couple years ago. Been around a little bit, knows how to pitch. Just made a mistake in the first.”