SARASOTA, Fla.—The Orioles’ roster is nearly set, and Chance Sisco won’t be on it. For most of spring training, Sisco looked as if he’d be the starting catcher, hitting .382 during Grapefruit League games.
That didn’t stop the Orioles from sending the 24-year-old to Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday, just after he’d gone 3-for-3 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
General manager Mike Elias said that Sisco hadn’t been a disappointment to the Orioles, not at all.
“We were thrilled with the way he looked all spring,” Elias said. “I think it was a big step forward for him defensively. He had a great spring. One lesson that those of us who have been in player development have learned is minor league stats in the regular season have a lot more predictive power than spring training stats.”
Sisco had a rough 2018 with the Orioles, offensively and defensively. There were two trips to Norfolk, and things didn’t go well there, either.
With the Orioles, he hit .188 with two home runs and 16 RBIs. With the Tides, hit .242, though he did manage a .344 on-base percentage.
“The situation that we’re in, we want to err on having the correct development path for these guys, and some of them, [Austin] Hays and Sisco in particular, they came up here really fast at really young ages and didn’t have the normal sort of…graduation progression that a prospect normally needs to have and if we provide that for him, I think it’ll be for their long-term benefit and our long-term benefit, but as it pertains to Chance and really any of these guys, we have a 40-man roster.”
Manager Brandon Hyde said that he didn’t relish giving Sisco the news, which became more likely once catcher Pedro Severino was acquired on waivers from the Nationals on Saturday.
“It was not easy,” Hyde said. “You don’t want a player to be happy about it. You want guys to be competitive and guys to have confidence, so for a player to be sent out and not be pleased with it, for me is OK, is probably the right thing. We’ve got the right type of makeup guy. I know he, I’m sure, was disappointed, and that’s OK.”
Elias also said that Alex Cobb’s sore right groin would prevent him from making the Opening Day start at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.
Cobb is expected to replaced by Andrew Cashner, but Cobb’s injury appears mild enough that he could go on the 10-day injured list and return to start the opener at Oriole Park on April 4.
Designated hitter Mark Trumbo (right knee) and catcher Austin Wynns (oblique) will begin the season on the injured list. Trumbo might be placed on the 60-day IL to create a roster spot for catcher Jesus Sucre, who originally signed a minor league contract.
Sucre and Severino will be the team’s catchers, and they’re two of a likely eight new players on the roster. Four are infielders: Rule 5 picks Drew Jackson and Richie Martin, and as Hanser Alberto and Rio Ruiz. Right-handed pitcher Nate Karns and outfielder Dwight Smith are also new to the organization.
Besides Alberto, who the Orioles lost on waivers in February but was reclaimed on March 1, perhaps the biggest surprise to make the team is left-handed pitcher John Means.
“I don’t think the roster’s officially set, but I’m still here,” Means said on Monday morning. “If you had asked me at the beginning of camp if I was going to be here the last day, I probably would have told you ‘no.’”
Means, who’s been in the organization since 2014, pitched in one game for the Orioles late last season when the team ran short of pitchers.
Elias said the team was encouraged by the report on outfielder Austin Hays, who injured his left thumb when he slid headfirst into second base in a minor league game on Saturday.
“We got good news on Hays yesterday,” Elias said. ”I think he’s got a mild sprain of his thumb and it’s going to be more weeks than months in terms of him getting back on the field, so that’s good news. Obviously, that can always evolve, but it was about as good of news as we could have hoped for and it was a weight off his shoulders and ours.”