Orioles catcher Jesus Sucre grateful to finally be in camp after 'dangerous' situation in Venezuela

Catcher Jesus Sucre is finally in camp with the Orioles and could play in an exhibition game later this week, but the uncertain roster situation that greeted him here must seem pretty insignificant at the moment.

The important thing is that he was able to get out of Venezuela safely with his family.


The political unrest in his home country has created a disastrous food shortage, which has made it impossible to go out in public safely — especially if you are perceived to be wealthy.

“It’s pretty bad,” he said on Monday morning. “For a lot of the big league players, if you’re going out, you have to have some bodyguards, because it’s pretty dangerous. People are so hungry. If they know you play in the big leagues, you can get in trouble.”

Sucre signed so late that he needed more time to navigate a particularly dicey visa situation. You must have a work visa to enter the United States and a job here to get one.

It could not be obtained in Venezuela because the American embassy closed after the U.S. sided with opposition leader Juan Guaido and called on embattled president Nicolas Maduro to cede power, so Sucre had to take his family into Colombia to do the paperwork and get the visa.

It was troubling enough already to be a Venezuelan citizen and not really know who was in charge of the country or whether the extremely volatile political situation might devolve into an armed conflict.

“People are just waiting for somebody to do something down there,’’ he said. “It’s kind of sad when you go to a hospital or watch people die in the streets. It’s sad. It’s so sad.”

Sucre, his wife and two children are safely in the United States now. He said the U.S. officials in Colombia were very helpful. He originally thought he would have to go to the Dominican Republic to get the visa, but a friend advised him that it would be quicker to go to Colombia.

Still, there was apprehension. He went from a volatile situation in his home country to a place he knew very little about.


“It’s not easy to go to a country you don’t know,’’ he said. “You don’t know how dangerous it might be there.”

So, what’s happening now is just baseball. Sucre said he’s happy to finally get started, though he knows that the three weeks he missed could cost him a chance to make the major league roster.

“For sure, when I was signed by Baltimore, my agent told me I would have a chance to make the team,’’ he said. “I was kind of worried about it. They’ve got some talent here. They’ve got two guys on the 40-man [roster] and I’m not on the 40-man. But you know what, last year I came a little late, too, but I’m here now and I’m happy to be here, so we’ll see what happens.”

The Orioles felt they needed Sucre because he’s an experienced veteran at a position where their top candidates for the roster were both young catchers with relatively little time at the big league level. They also signed four-year veteran Carlos Perez for the same reason.

Sucre has played parts of six seasons with the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays, but has never played full-time in the majors. That’s why he plays winter ball every year, which has allowed him to arrive in camp in decent shape, in spite of the time he spent waiting on the visa.

He caught a bullpen session on Sunday and was scheduled to catch Jimmy Yacabonis in a simulated game situation on Monday. If all goes well, he said he’ll be ready to play in an exhibition game as soon as Thursday.


“I know I got here two weeks late,” he said. “If they give me the opportunity to play a little bit, I have a chance.”

Meanwhile, the catching competition has been going well, according to manager Brandon Hyde.

“I had a meeting with the catchers yesterday and we went over a bunch of things,’’ Hyde said Monday. “I told them I am really impressed with our catching corps and how we’ve gone about things. I think we’ve made huge strides behind the plate.

“Our effort is really good and our attention to detail is really good and they’re just getting better. Some of those guys are just scratching the surface of what they can do behind the plate.”

Hyde singled out Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns — who are on the 40-man major league roster — but said that it remains to be seen whether the team goes with two young catchers or pairs one of them with one of the more experienced guys.

“I think, obviously, you’d like to have some experience behind the plate and also want to do what’s best for the player,’’ he said. “I don’t want to rush a guy to the big leagues if I don’t think he’s ready and it’s not going to benefit him to play in the big leagues. I think we’re going to try to find what’s best of both worlds.”