FORT MYERS, Fla.—A year ago, Chance Sisco forced his way on the Orioles with a superb spring training. He’s trying to do it again this year.
In 2018, there was an opportunity for a catcher to make the team behind Caleb Joseph, and Sisco hit .429 with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
However, the 2018 season was a disastrous one for Sisco. It included two trips to Triple-A Norfolk. He ended with a .181 average and 66 strikeouts in 184 plate appearances. Sisco also struggled on defense.
With a new manager and coaches to please, Sisco has done his best so far. On Wednesday, he smacked a pair of two-run home runs and had an opposite-field single to left as the Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox, 7-6, at jetBlue Park.
Sisco is 4-for-6 with three home runs and eight RBIs in three games.
“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.”
Brandon Hyde, Sisco’s new manager, is eager to see more of him.
“I’m going to continue to give him at-bats and play him behind the plate,” Hyde said. “It’s confidence, and I just want to give him as much confidence as I can and really believe in a guy, and he swung the bat great today.”
Perhaps a change in managers and coaches has helped Sisco relax.
“I wouldn’t say it’s easier to perform,” said Sisco, who was the designated hitter on Wednesday. “It’s just right now everyone’s a little bit relaxed, and we’re having fun out there. 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.”
Sisco isn’t interested in talking about last year, which was a huge disappointment for him and the team, which lost 115 games.
“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Sisco said. “I’m not really focusing on that anymore. I’ve kind of moved past it. Learn from it and move past it.”
Sisco doesn’t have an outgoing nature, but Hyde wants him to be assertive.
“I want him to know that we have confidence in him, and we’ll work with him on communication behind the plate, understanding that there’s times to be vocal,” Hyde said.
“Chance is still developing behind the plate and offensively. Chance has got a ton of ability. He’s got a chance to be a really good catcher. He’s got a chance to hit from the left side…I just want him to play with confidence and be the leader on the field and have it be OK to show personality. It’s really hard to do with a young player.”
The left-hand-hitting Sisco hit his first home run against lefty Eduardo Rodriguez in the second, another one in the fourth off Tyler Thornburg and an opposite-field single to left against Colten Brewer in the fifth.
“I love that,” Sisco 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.”
Hyde, who was a former catcher, and Tim Cossins, his catching coach, are taking special interest in Sisco’s receiving and hitting.
“That leadership role on the field is important,” Hyde said. “It’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to do with a young catcher, but it’s something we’re working on this spring.
“We watched him the first couple of weeks, and we’re going to watch him a lot more.”
So far, Sisco’s offense has been just fine.
“I just want him to take good at-bats,” Hyde said. “It’s good to see him put the barrel on a few balls. He’s been working on pull-side power, and he’s done that twice now. He’s just one of them that we’re trying to pump confidence into, and the results are good now.”
In the recent past, the Orioles had vocal catchers in Joseph and Matt Wieters. While Hyde never worked with them, he knows what he wants to see out of Sisco.
“I want him to…not be timid,” Hyde said. “I don’t want him to throw behind runners. I want him to be aggressive and make mistakes physically here by being aggressive. That’s pretty much the mindset of all our guys. I don’t want anybody to feel bottled up.”