Seattle — Before opening a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field, the Orioles added two familiar faces to their expanded roster Monday, recalling catcher Chance Sisco and right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis from Triple-A Norfolk.
When rosters expanded Saturday, the Orioles made just one call-up, promoting infielder Breyvic Valera, but intended to make more additions in the coming days as Norfolk’s season wound down. The Tides played their final game of the season Monday.
Sisco, who gives the Orioles a third catcher for the final month of the season, has been touted as the club’s catcher of the future. But after making the team’s Opening Day roster and, for a time, unseating Caleb Joseph as the starting backstop, he’s been sent to Triple-A twice, most recently July 17.
Yacabonis reported to the Orioles’ clubhouse at Safeco Field ready to provide innings when asked, just as he’s done all season long. But the prospect of actually sticking around the big league clubhouse for more than a few days was a welcome idea for the 26-year-old.
“Yeah, it would be nice,” Yacabonis said. “Yeah, we’ll see how it goes. I’m looking forward to the opportunity and thankful for the opportunity.”
After seven previous big league call-ups, most of which lasted less than 48 hours, Yacabonis is likely on the big league roster to stay this season.
“I’ve kind of just been going based off the calls all year,” Yacabonis said. “Just working on always being ready for whenever they need me. I figured last year they called me up in September, so I figured it might happen again this year, so I’d be ready for it.”
But this season is much different than last year. At that point, Yacabonis was getting his first taste of big league action as a reliever. This season, he pitched exclusively as a starter in Triple-A, and he was the Orioles’ top choice when the club needed a spot starter, though Yacabonis was plucked from a thin pool of candidates on the 40-man roster.
In his first season transitioning to a starter at Triple-A Norfolk, Yacabonis was 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA over six games (four starts) as a fill-in at the big league level. He was 3-5 with a 4.25 ERA in 21 starts at Norfolk.
“He made some solid strides as a starter,” manager Buck Showalter said. “If you had told me in the beginning of the year when we decided to go there that he would have responded to it like he did, we would have loved that. He had a lot more ups and downs. It’s a positive thing for him. He obviously had a lot less appearances but a lot more stressfulness of those shorter periods. One of the things that was intriguing about him is that he’s a strong guy with a real good physical [makeup]. He should be a durable guy, but it’s always a work in progress. But he’ll have the chance to pitch here.”
Yacabonis said Monday that he didn’t know whether he’d get a start this month, but said he’s ready.
“I have no clue,” Yacabonis said. “We’ll see. I’m ready to pitch, so just need the ball. … I feel good. I feel like I definitely still have something left. My last outing was a 10 a.m. game in Gwinnett [Ga.], and even at 10, I still felt pretty good, so I still have some innings left.”
After Yacabonis’ last major league start, in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Yankees on Aug. 28, Showalter indicated that Yacabonis would finish the season in Triple-A with an eye on an innings count, especially since he’s in his first season as a starter. But Showalter left the door open for Yacabonis receiving another start, possibly a short one. None of Yacabonis’ outings have been longer than five innings or 83 pitches.
“It depends on how you look at a start,” Showalter said. “If you look as a start like he’s going to pitch six or seven innings, which we’d love to think, then that’s different. But you can start with the idea that you’re not going to pitch but a couple innings, maybe three. … We’ve already got, like I told you, a chart keeping up with everything.”
As for Sisco, he got into the starting lineup right away Monday as the team’s starting designated hitter after first baseman Chris Davis (illness) was scratched and Trey Mancini moved from DH to first base.
“Just embracing the opportunity,” Sisco said. “There’s always an opportunity, and I’m just happy to have the opportunity right now. Take what I can get and just come to the ballpark prepared and ready to work and try to take advantage of an opportunity.”
Overall, Sisco’s performance at Norfolk has been pedestrian, as the left-handed-hitting catcher hit just .225/.328/.315 in 33 games in his most recent stint with the Tides. In 38 games overall with Norfolk, Sisco has a subpar 13.5 percent caught-stealing rate (5-for-37), the worst among Tides catchers.
He’s seen better results at the plate recently at Norfolk, hitting .311 with a .831 OPS over his past 14 games before his promotion.
“Like all season, there’s kind of been some ups and downs, but as of late, things have been really well,” Sisco said. “I’m feeling really well, so I’m ready to be back here and see how it translates here. Just working on refining a couple things. Some things that got away from me that I had done really good in the past that just kind of got away from me, and I didn’t really have a feel for it. So just working on those thing to get them refined and happy to be back.”
In 58 big league games this season, Sisco, 23, hit just .195/.306/.289 with two homers and 16 RBIs. He started the season well, going 8-for-24 over his first 10 games, but has batted just .168 since. He said he benefited from the reset he received from going back to Triple-A.
“When I got sent down, things were said that [there were things] that would probably be easier for me to figure out in a different spot,” he said. “So yeah, looking back on it, it was a nice little way for me to kind of reset myself and kind of learn some things about myself that I really didn’t learn before. So to be able to hit the reset button and work on those things, get it right, was nice.”
Still, it will be interesting to see how the Orioles share playing time over the final month of the season among Joseph, Sisco and Austin Wynns, who is playing more and hitting .304 over his past 16 games.