Back in majors, Orioles' Chance Sisco used minor league assignment to 'get back to myself'

When you're in it, it's hard to tell just how badly things are going.

Now that the Orioles gave rookie Chance Sisco 11 days in the minors to gather himself after the struggles that come with being a big league catcher mounted to the point of overwhelming him, it's clear what both he and the team were looking for.


"I really didn't know what to think at the time — just a lot of things going on," Sisco said of the period leading up to his June 17 demotion to Triple-A Norfolk. "I was just trying to get back to myself and go down there and get back to myself. Really, that was what it was all about.

"I felt a little off, but I was just trying to go back down there and try to get back to myself and have fun playing baseball and bring that back with me. It's tough to do at any level, but with all that comes with being here, I'm just trying to enjoy it and do the best that I can."


None of that is to say Sisco didn't enjoy making the Orioles' Opening Day roster and spending the first two-plus months of the season in the majors after last September's cameo. All anyone in this game wants to do is make it to the big leagues.

But the pressures of running a major league pitching staff, combined with struggles throwing and controlling the running game and his most prolonged slump at the plate as a professional meant Sisco was struggling in a lot of ways.

He was batting .218 with a .668 OPS and a pair of home runs through 47 games when he was scratched, then optioned to Norfolk on June 17. After throwing out nine of the first 18 would-be base stealers he faced this season, Sisco then saw 15 in a row steal successfully as part of a 1-for-18 stretch.

If Sisco had something going his way to hang his hat on and build off of, the struggles that come with being a 23-year-old rookie catcher with a veteran pitching staff on a struggling team might have been easier to manage. All together, it made for a cocktail that was difficult to stomach.

His problems throwing were among the Orioles biggest concerns when they sent him down, but the club is confident he's come through it with his time at Norfolk. He allowed 10 stolen bases in as many tries in five games for the Tides, but manager Buck Showalter noted while he was down that pitchers there weren't as conscientious about holding runners as they need to be.

Sisco went 1-for-4 at the plate Thursday and was back in Friday's lineup to catch David Hess, but Showalter said it's "too early" to tell what the time away did for him.

"He caught one game," Showalter said. "We'll see. But as far as catching and calling a game, I've been really impressed with Chance. We knew, like a lot of young players, he's going to have his ups and downs offensively, and he was throwing real well early in the season.

"We gave him a chance to take a blow and work on a few things without the impending major league game right there. It's a little early. Ask me in a couple days."


Sisco believes the opportunity to play with some of his longtime teammates in Norfolk and get back into an environment where he's had success played a role in the good run he put together in Norfolk. He hit two homers and went 6-for-17 (.353) in five games there.

As a career .312 minor league hitter who has never hit below the .267 batting average he posted for the Tides last season, the hitting problems he's had with major league pitching are new. Sisco doesn't know if success at the plate would have bled into everything else before he went down, though.

"It's a tough one to answer, because it's not the situation," Sisco said. "I don't really know what it would be like. I'm just looking forward to the days to come, and just trying to bring a really different mindset into it."