Susac on second chance with Orioles

SARASOTA, Fla. - Rain has been falling all morning in Sarasota and it could impact the first workout for Orioles pitchers and catchers at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. They’ll attempt to head outdoors if the proverbial window opens.

Former Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph has signed a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks worth a guaranteed $1.1 million. He turned down the Orioles’ offer of a minor league contract, held out for something better and got it.

The Orioles brought six catchers to camp, but Jesús Sucre’s locker is empty today and his nameplate has been removed. He’s delayed by visa issues and remains in Venezuela, according to a source.

Andrew Susac is one of the four non-roster invitees and he’s trying to get back on the 40-man roster after the Orioles designated him for assignment last month. Injuries continue to stall his career, which began with such promise as one of the top prospects in the Giants system.

Susac, 28, was hospitalized last spring with a staph infection and had his season end at Triple-A Norfolk in late July after being hit by a foul tip and fracturing his right wrist.

Susac-Tag-at-Plate-Sidebar.jpgAsked to reflect last season, Susac replied, “Just been injury-plagued, man. There’s no way around it. Breaking bones, crazy stuff with the staph infection, just a bum deal, especially in a year where I felt like I took a lot of strides getting back closer to where I was early on in my career in the big leagues.

“It’s hard to get going and have a lot of consistency when you’re still getting injured and dealing with the stop and go effect of everything. It kills you mentally at times, but you just try to regroup in the offseason and come in with a fresh mindset and get after it.”

The Orioles placed Susac on the restricted list in August after he returned to his Sacramento home and reinstated him the following month. His days in the organization appeared to be numbered.

“I wasn’t even in Norfolk. I was here in Sarasota and I had a cast on up to my elbow, so I couldn’t really do anything,” he said.

“I ended up just going home for two weeks until my cast came off and I came back. That’s just what it was. I was sitting in the hotel doing nothing and I figured, what the heck, I’m just going to go home for two weeks and come back. It was no big deal, but you hate to be charged with the R-word and I understand where they were coming from. You’ve got a diligence to be there, but when we weren’t doing much and I was here in a cast ...

“If it was something that I could rehab and get something out of it, it would make sense, but I had some stuff going on at home that I felt like I needed to be there, and I had the time to be there, so I did take off and I went home for a couple weeks and then I came back and finished out my rehab.”

Susac sat on the 40-man bubble and it finally popped on Jan. 11 when the club needed to make room for infielder Hanser Alberto.

“You never know, right?” Susac said. “I’m sitting there at the end of the offseason. Shoot, I got DFA’d a month ago. I was like, ‘All right, this isn’t looking too bad,’ but you get the call. It didn’t shock me. Having been injured and new guys coming in. They want to get a look at some younger guys in person and I get it. It’s just part of the business. You’ve got to wear it sometimes and have a short-term memory and get it going.

“Yeah, I’m a little bit surprised that I’m back. Would definitely like to be on the 40-man, but these are the obstacles that you get and you deal with it.”

A clean slate awaited Susac in Sarasota. A new head of baseball operations, new manager and new coaching staff.

“I think that helps everyone out,” he said. “You let them form their opinions about you based on what they see and you go out there and give it your all and try to prove yourself out there as much as possible and enjoy it. I think that’s one of the lost arts, too. Not making it so much of a job. I’m guilty of it all the time, too. Enjoy the competition and what you started playing for.”

There’s lots of competition here as the Orioles decide on a starter and backup.

“I think it’s one of those things where, when you get the opportunity, show what you’ve got,” Susac said. “Show what you have to give to the team. That’s really what it comes down to. Whether you’re playing every day or you aren’t, you’ve just got to do your thing and play good and everything seems to take care of itself.

“But as far as competition goes, I’ve been in competition my whole career, so that ain’t nothing new to me. I’m sure it’s nothing new to these guys. It’s going to be a fun little battle this spring and we’ll have fun with it like we did last year.”

Meanwhile, Rule 5 infielder Drew Jackson is counted among position players who reported early. And outfielder Eric Young Jr. has been assigned No. 28, if you’re scoring at home.

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