Spring Training Primer: Manny and Castillo return; Machado on Jones' thievery; Sisco sticks around; Chris Lee struggles - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Spring Training Primer: Manny and Castillo return; Machado on Jones’ thievery; Sisco sticks around; Chris Lee struggles

Photo credit: Orlando Ramirez/USA Today Sports

What’s happening: Manny Machado and Welington Castillo returned to the Orioles’ clubhouse Wednesday after playing in the World Baseball Classic. The two had a wonderful time competing for the Dominican Republic.

Manager Buck Showalter wants to make sure the pair — especially Castillo, who isn’t used to catching so many intense innings this early in the spring — doesn’t get burned out. Showalter isn’t planning on playing them until Saturday night.

For Orioles fans, and baseball fans, the moment of the tourney came on March 18 when Adam Jones stole a home run from Machado, leaping high above the center field fence to make a spectacular catch.

“He’s a great player. He’s representing his country, trying to do everything, laying it out on the field every day like he does when he’s here,” Machado said of Jones. “He made a hell of a catch. I mean, it was unbelievable. It was one of the best catches I’ve ever seen him make or ever seen being made.”

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Before Wednesday’s contest against Tampa Bay, Showalter said he toyed with the idea of inserting Castillo into the game to catch Brad Brach and Zach Britton, who pitched the fourth and sixth innings, respectively. But he nixed that idea.

“I think I have a really good idea on everybody here. Even if I hadn’t caught them a lot. It’s not going to take a long time to figure it out,” Castillo said. “I feel like I’m in good shape with the pitching staff, but every day you learn something new from them.”

What’s happened: Left-hander Chris Lee basically removed himself from the fifth starter competition by posting a rough two innings Wednesday night.

Lee, whom Showalter says is competing against Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Gabriel Ynoa and Jayson Aquino for the slot that the Orioles hope is temporarily vacant because of Chris Tillman’s sore shoulder, threw 55 pitches and allowed two runs on five hits.

“Overall, I feel like I didn’t finish enough. It’s something you can’t dwell on,” Lee said. “Be more efficient next time.”

Left-handed pitcher Richard Bleier was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk and right-hander Zach Stewart was reassigned to minor league camp Wednesday. The moves leave the Orioles with 42 players in major league camp.

Ryan Flaherty, who hasn’t played since March 13 with a sore right shoulder, is set to return Friday. Seth Smith, who last played on March 8, remains out with a strained right hamstring.

What’s up with: Chance Sisco. The organization’s top prospect was kept in Orioles’ camp while two veteran catchers with major league experience, Francisco Pena and Audry Perez, were reassigned to minor league camp.

With only Castillo and Caleb Joseph remaining, Sisco will get plenty of action behind the plate.

“We’re not going to keep him here unless we can catch him,” Showalter said. “And that’s what we can do now.”

Sisco, who has only played four games at Triple-A, is expected to begin the season in Norfolk. But, for now, he’s still with the Orioles.

“He’s going to come in and catch three or four innings almost every day,” Showalter said. “The experience he’s getting here is immeasurable. We’re not going to keep him here unless this is the best thing for his development. Everybody’s in agreement the more time he can spend in this environment, the better off it will be for him down the road.”

Sisco hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s 7-4 win over the Rays. The left-handed hitter’s homer smacked the left field foul pole.

“That was legit. I think that ball would have hit our foul pole in Baltimore,” Showalter said.

What they’re saying: “One hundred percent. Sign me up already. Right now. It was just unbelievable, the whole experience.” — Machado on whether he would play in the WBC again.

What’s the number? 61 — It has nothing to do with Roger Maris. It’s the team-leading number of at-bats Chris Johnson has, which are 14 more than Hyun Soo Kim’s and Trey Mancini’s 47. Johnson hit his second home run of the spring Wednesday night.

What’s the record? 13-11-2 — After today’s off day, the Orioles will take on the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla. on Friday night.

Rich Dubroff covers the Orioles for PressBoxOnline.com. You can read his stories here.

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