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Orioles' Chance Sisco impresses Brandon Hyde behind plate as bat cools in Wednesday's win

Orioles catcher Chance Sisco wasn't going to keep performing as well as he had been all spring. No one could.

But in Wednesday’s 9-6 Grapefruit League win over the Tampa Bay Rays, manager Brandon Hyde saw Sisco hit many of the markers that the team has set for his improvement behind the plate.

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Sisco threw out his first attempted base stealer of the spring season in the second inning when shortstop Willy Adames tried to swipe second base after a walk against John Means, but it was how Sisco stemmed what was getting to be a messy inning for rookie pitcher Luis Ortiz that stood out to Hyde.

Each of the Orioles’ three starting outfielders provided big swings in a 9-6 win over the Rays, with home runs by Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins in the fifth inning setting the stage for a three-run double by Yusniel Diaz in the eighth.

After a single, a double and a walk to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth, Sisco went out to the mound to visit Ortiz midway through Adames' at-bat to settle him down. Ortiz was having trouble commanding the ball from his slide-step with runners on, and went to a conventional windup. He still allowed two runs on well-hit sacrifice flies to right field, but the damage was limited.

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Hyde noticed.

"Great job, no doubt," Hyde said. "You guys probably can't hear, but there's multiple times where he's verbally saying things out loud to our infield that he wasn't doing early in camp. He tried to pick [off] behind a guy [at first base] today, which hit the umpire, so it looked funny. He's just doing things aggressively, and that's what we're trying to get out of him. I'm impressed in that, and he's taken what we've been talking a lot about and he's taken it into the games. He did a great job."

Sisco's spring has garnered praise for his offense. Before Wednesday's 0-for-2 performance with a hit-by-pitch, he was batting .500 with four home runs. Now, it’s a paltry .417 average. But when his bat scuffled last year, his defense, which has never been a strong suit, wasn't able to keep him in the majors. He took small steps Wednesday to show his defense has improved.

On the stolen-base attempt, the first against him this spring, Sisco had a pop time (the time it takes for the ball to travel from the catcher’s mitt to second base) of 2.09 seconds, according to one scout in attendance, and 2.11 according to another. His average in the majors in 2018, according to MLB's Statcast data, was 2.09 seconds, though that was tied for 65th out of 68 qualifying catchers. The league average is 2.01 seconds.

There's been some buzz among scouts that Sisco's arm has looked better this spring, though, and with Hyde and major league field coordinator/catching instructor Tim Cossins working with Sisco on that, perhaps the work done under former bench coach John Russell can continue and Sisco can outplay his defensive projections.

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