Chance Sisco has absorbed the usual punishment as a catcher. The foul tips, the backswings, the collisions. No one is immune to it if their chosen profession involves squatting behind home plate.
But the sixth inning. What in the world was going on in the sixth inning?
The Red Sox sent 12 batters to the plate Sunday afternoon and scored six runs. They also sent Sisco to the trainers’ room, the second unfortunate incident thrashing the highest pain threshold. There was no way to withstand it.
Sisco remained in the game after Sam Travis slammed into his left shoulder as he reached for a high relay throw from Jonathan Villar. The ball carried Sisco into Travis’ path, there was no attempt to slide and the young catcher crumbled to the dirt.
It felt like a day at the beach compared to what happened next.
Xander Bogaerts fouled a ball directly behind him and between Sisco’s legs - pretty much the nightmare of every catcher in the sport. Sisco stayed down, his fingers clutching the mask that covered his face, squeezing it tightly while emanating sounds that set off sympathy alarms throughout the dugout.
Sisco finally rose to his knees as fans at Fenway Park applauded. Then he made the slow walk to the clubhouse with head athletic trainer Brian Ebel, who had to wonder how the inning turned so violently against Sisco.
So did the former second-round draft pick, who sat out Monday night’s game and returned to the lineup last night.
“I’ve never had an inning like that before,” he said yesterday. “Obviously, you get foul tips and stuff, but nothing like the collision and then that type of foul tip right after that, so it was kind of crazy. All within a couple of batters and hit me pretty fast.”
A doctor cleared Sisco to play. The shoulder and neck were fine after Travis clipped him. Everything was OK, which allowed the Orioles to send back Austin Wynns after putting him on the taxi squad.
“Everything checked out,” Sisco said. “Even after that one, it was the second injury that was hurting worse. Went and got everything checked out and I’m good to go.”
It’s easier for Sisco to replay the collision. He doesn’t know whether the ball was deflected by Chris Davis, who tried to cut it off. But he’s certain that he dodged a serious injury while unable to avoid Travis.
“I don’t know if (Davis) tipped it or not, but it was on the other side of the baseline and I was trying to go after it,” Sisco said. “I thought he was going to slide, so I just kept going, I guess, and we just ran into each other. It was just a freak thing. I don’t think it was anyone’s fault. Just something that happens.
“Very lucky. With both of them very lucky, I guess. That’s all you can really say is luck was on my side that day. Even though they both hurt real bad, I don’t have anything lingering from it.”
The four-leaf clover he’s carrying should come with a warning label.
Comparing the level of pain between the two mishaps is like comparing apples to Orange County.
“Second one was far worse. Absolutely,” he said with a laugh.
Sisco’s been hit in that area in the past because, well, he’s a catcher and it’s impossible to avoid. But the Bogaerts incident, as it will be known in history books for future generations to study, exceeded anything he’s felt.
“By far the worst,” he said. “I had one my first year of catching in high school where I came out of the game, but it was like a winter ball game or something where I went back in an inning or two later and I was fine. But that one was by far the worst I’ve ever had in my life.”
Manager Brandon Hyde noted how the humor builds as the pain fades. There’s nothing funny at the exact moment that the player is in agony and perhaps headed to the hospital - Caleb Joseph underwent a surgical procedure three years ago - but the laughs and quips come later.
They’re just put on hold. Like anything in comedy, it’s all in the timing.
“Oh yeah, I got plenty of texts and people making jokes about it,” Sisco said. “It’s all good now. It’s funny after the fact. Definitely not at the time, but now it’s kind of a little running joke.”
At least he can still run.
With the conversation turning personal, it should be reported that Sisco has switched to the same Kevlar cup that Joseph wears.
“I’ve already got one now. See if that one helps,” Sisco said.
“I don’t know though. The cup did its job. It wasn’t anything with that. It’s just the pure force of what happened. The cup didn’t break and nothing else is broken, so it did its job.”
Sisco laughs again. The statute of limitations has passed and a shot to the groin is fair game.
Last night’s game passed without incident. Sisco caught starter Dylan Bundy and two relievers in a 4-1 win. He wasn’t scared or the least bit apprehensive.
Put on the gear, the old and the new, and focus on the job.
“You kind of have to,” he said. “It’s like a foul ball off the mask. It’s something that happens and you try to forget about it.
“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. There’s nothing I can do to stop it.”