Roster expansion offers Orioles' first-time big leaguers valuable experience on, off field

Few first-time big leaguers experience the kind of September that Trey Mancini did last year, when he went from the team's reserve call-up camp in Sarasota, Fla., to the postseason roster for the Orioles' America League wild-card game in Toronto over a 17-day span.

So it's difficult to compare the impact that the September call-up had on Mancini — and the foundation it set for his sparkling rookie season this year — to what others experience. But when rosters expand Friday, the Orioles will go through the annual routine of choosing which promising farmhands could be best served by experiencing the major leagues during the season's final full month.


The Orioles will likely have several waves of call-ups. Friday's will include the essentials — a third catcher, an extra reliever and some added corner outfield help. And there will also be additions throughout the month after Orioles affiliates complete their seasons and some players work out at the team's spring training facility in Sarasota awaiting a potential call.

As for the third catcher, the Orioles will add top position prospect Chance Sisco on Friday, according to an industry source. While Sisco has been in big league spring training for the past two seasons, this will be his first taste of the majors in the regular season. While Sisco, 22, isn't expected to see much playing time, the Orioles had to add him to the organizational 40-man roster in the upcoming offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft anyway.


The Orioles also will call up slugger Pedro Álvarez, outfielder Joey Rickard and reliever Jimmy Yacabonis on Friday.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter doesn't like to crowd his clubhouse with players who have no opportunity to contribute on the field, so don't expect a plethora of call-ups. But he often talks about the opportunity he gave to a New York Yankees prospect named Derek Jeter in 1995 to remain with the team to experience a postseason run during Showalter's final season managing the Yankees. A 21-year-old Jeter appeared in just two September games after playing 13 games in two earlier call-ups that year.

"I remember when I brought Derek Jeter up just to travel with us in October [of 1995] and I remember him saying later, 'Heck, I though that's what's supposed to happen every year,'" Showalter said. Jeter went on to win five World Series rings with the Yankees.

In retrospect, that's what Mancini said was the greatest benefit of receiving a call-up last September. He initially reported to the Sarasota camp and was called up on Sept. 18. He played in just five regular-season games, but homered in each of his first three starts, and found himself on the active roster when the Orioles played the wild-card game. Even though he didn't play in that game, Mancini carried the experience with him into this year.

"It's something that I've never experienced and it's something that it really doesn't do it justice until you witness it in person to know what a postseason game is like," Mancini said. "That place was rocking. It was awesome; the coolest atmosphere that I've ever seen or been a part of. And even though I didn't get into the game, I don't think I realized it at the time that I was on the postseason roster and what that meant. It was pretty special looking back, and it makes you want it every year, to be a part of that postseason every year after being there.

"At the beginning of the spring, I would probably say that it was important to get some experience and have some success because maybe you won't be as nervous going into the next year. But now I think seeing a postseason game was the biggest benefit, being a part of a playoff race and doing that definitely gets something going in you and you kind of want to achieve that again. Especially this time of the year, you don't want to look too far ahead, but everybody wants to make the playoffs and it's an amazing experience. There's something a little different about it."

Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop was a September call-up in 2013, and he didn't see any playing time for more than three weeks until receiving his first big league start on Sept. 25. Schoop, like Mancini, homered in his first big league game, but he played in just five games that season. For Schoop, the experience of getting used to major league life was an invaluable experience.

"I was scared a little bit; I ain't going to lie," Schoop said. "I was a little timid to talk. When people talked to me, I talked. I asked a question if I had to, but really I watched the game and tried to learn from it. … The main thing to me is getting to know the guys. You walk around the clubhouse and you see how they work and you try to imitate them and watch the game, learn from the game. The next year, I had the shot to make the team and it was easier for me to be around my teammates because I got to know them already. It helped me a lot.


"It was good because [even though] I didn't play [a lot], we were in the race. It was good to watch the game and learn from it because every game was meaning something. We were pushing for the playoffs. It was fun to watch and learn and get better, to see the pitchers and try to get better and get stronger to make the team."

Schoop said his experience in September 2013, even though the Orioles didn't make the postseason that year, allowed him to go into the following spring training having been accustomed to the big league routine.

"You feel like you've been there already because you were with the team in September," Schoop said. "You go to spring training, it's pretty much all the same guys and you've already been around them. So you can concentrate on getting your work in and work hard and try to make the team."

Mancini has enjoyed one of the best seasons of any AL rookie, entering Thursday with 23 homers, remembers watching intently on days he didn't play in 2016, taking in the speed of the game and how veterans operated.

"I think the biggest thing was watching how everybody went about their business every day," Mancini said. "Everybody here has their own routine and I noticed that from the first day I got in. Being one of the younger guys, I remember [left-handed reliever] Donnie Hart, he was the newest guy here and I came up with him, so he kind of showed me the ropes of being the first one here, all that stuff, so I learned that and it was important.

"I remember watching [first baseman Chris] Davis and his mannerisms and how he got off the bag and everything and how smooth he looked. So you look at the guys playing your position. Everyone pretty much keeps an even keel here, so you see how guys deal with success or not doing well. So it's little things like that that you take."


For now, it appears the Orioles will leave some of the top prospects down below as their teams play in the postseason: Double-A Bowie has clinched a playoff spot while High-A Frederick and Short-A Aberdeen are in postseason contention. So that means that potential call-ups such as likely organizational Minor League Player of the Year Austin Hays, the fast-moving outfielder from Bowie, would be included in a later wave of call-ups.

"We're probably going to make some moves between now and the end of [September] toward not having that [adaption] period next year with people," Showalter said. "I've said it many times: some of the best development that goes on with players is from the time the season ends and the next spring. I'm sure Jonathan [thought], 'OK, this is what I thought it was going to be like and this is what it really was like.' … I guarantee you that somebody's going to come up here who has a chance to be a contributor, some of them with a track record. We're not going to bring up anyone who we think can't contribute. Development is nice, but there's two sides to this."