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Orioles notes: Chris Davis a candidate to lead off during regular season

SARASOTA, FLA. — First baseman Chris Davis has batted leadoff in each of his four Grapefruit League starts since returning from elbow soreness, and manager Buck Showalter said that’s just as much to get him as many at-bats as possible as it is a real possibility for how the lineup sets up once the season starts.

"There's that potential, and to get him at-bats as much as possible, but there's that potential," Showalter said. "It's something we've looked at since last year, especially with our team."

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Asked whether Davis was OK with it, Showalter said: "That's a nice way to put it."

Danny Valencia was told Saturday that he was heading north to Baltimore with the major league club.

"I think more than that," he said. "It's something that I was thinking about. You try to think about everything, but it's something that Chris kind of brought up as much as I did to him as something. We'll see how it goes. Everything's subject to change. We haven't totally committed to it, but it's something we're thinking about."

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Showalter has mentioned the possibility of doing this with Davis, who despite a high strikeout rate and a relatively low contact rate has consistently gotten on base via a selective approach over the years. He had a .309 on-base percentage in 2017, his lowest since 2014, and his career mark is .328.

Davis doesn't represent the prototypical leadoff hitter of decades past, but Showalter has long speculated that his ability to work a walk plus the added responsibility of setting the table for a potent lineup might make Davis' commitment to that approach a bit stronger.

He’s also hit 67 of his 111 home runs over the last three seasons with the bases empty.

In his first three games after returning from his elbow injury, Davis is 3-for-11 with a home run in Friday's win over the Tampa Bay Rays, bringing his spring line overall to 5-for-24 (.208) with a pair of home runs.

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Sisco blindsided

Catcher Chance Sisco said he was summoned into Showalter's office Friday, then referred to bench coach John Russell regarding a play he didn't execute well in Thursday's game before the script changed.

"He just kind of smirked at me and said, 'Congrats, you made the team,' " Sisco said. "That was a big turn of events in that conversation."

Sisco's inclusion on the roster as the team's second catcher along with Caleb Joseph came in a spring where he entered Saturday batting .419 with a pair of home runs and a 1.309 OPS. He said he focused on what he could control to distinguish himself from fellow competitors Austin Wynns and Andrew Susac, and turned in a good camp overall — especially on defense, which is an area that will be crucial to his major league success.

"I feel like I definitely made strides with pitch calling, working with the pitchers, blocking and receiving," Sisco said. "Even throwing got a little better. That's what I want to keep working on. Obviously, I want to keep working on everything, but I want to be able to throw guys out consistently. Who doesn't? No one wants guys to steal on them as a catcher. That's a huge thing that I want to be able to do. I think I can do it. It's just a matter of reps and being consistent with it.”

Beckham improving

Third baseman Tim Beckham (groin) is progressing well, Showalter said, since leaving Thursday's game — and so much so that he won't likely stay back in Sarasota to play in minor league games ahead of Opening Day.

"We won't play him tomorrow, and unless the weather drastically changes, I'm not going to play him in that cold weather in Norfolk either," Showalter said. "We'll make a final decision on him at the workout on Wednesday, whether to make him active or not. Right now, the plans are that he should be OK, but we'll see how Wednesday goes."

Beckham homered in his only at-bat Thursday before leaving the game with the injury, which he downplayed as minor on Friday.

Around the horn

Showalter said right-hander Andrew Cashner will start for the Orioles on Monday against Triple-A Norfolk. ... Right-hander Alex Cobb will pitch a three-inning simulated game at Ed Smith Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m., starting his progression for the regular season. Cobb will be with the team and part of the Opening Day ceremonies, even if he's not on the roster, Showalter said.

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