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Orioles notes: Chance Sisco starts behind the plate

FORT MYERS, FLA. — Orioles top prospect Chance Sisco got his first start of the spring behind the plate in Fort Myers, but didn't see much added significance in the assignment of catching Dylan Bundy and getting five innings of work behind the plate in a Grapefruit League game.

"I'm just ready to play," Sisco said. "It's another game. Obviously, I'm starting, but it's just another game. I go at it with that mindset. It's just more innings and another opportunity to improve behind the dish and get some at-bats."

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Sisco grounded out and struck out in his first two at-bats, but drove in outfielder Aneury Tavarez with an opposite-field double in his third and final trip to the plate. He now has two hits in eight at-bats.

The Twins stole three bases off Sisco over his five innings of work.

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"He caught the ball well," manager Buck Showalter said. "We didn't give him much help with the running game. Not too good, didn't have much chance on them. I don't know [if he was] nervous, but maybe a little anxiety. We wanted to get him a start."

Earlier in camp, the Orioles tried to get catcher Welington Castillo familiar with their pitching staff and ready for the World Baseball Classic as quickly as possible, so he caught more than a typical starter might.

But since then, it has been Caleb Joseph as the top catcher with Sisco, Francisco Pena, and Audry Perez rotating in as the deputy. Sisco was the only one of that trio with a Grapefruit League hit until Pena's tie-breaking two-run double in the ninth inning on Sunday.

Washington trying to beat odds: Non-roster invitee David Washington has scant opportunity to make an impression — especially with the pending return of Pedro Alvarez, who joins Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and the rest of the Orioles' power-hitting first base/outfield options.

With his two-run, walk-off home run in Saturday's 7-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington did make an impression on manager Buck Showalter. Then Washington took advantage of his only at-bat against the Twins on Sunday, lining a long double to center field in the eighth inning.

"I'll tell you, he's put some good swings on the balls in probably the last week," Showalter said. "A really good young man to be around, too. He works hard. A pleasure to have in camp. He's well-thought-of by the coaches. He really works hard, and I think it's his first big league camp. He's really making good use of his time with the impressions, a big strong young guy."

Washington now has three hits in 15 Grapefruit League at-bats this spring, all for extra bases. He came to camp with a reputation of being a slugger with contact issues — he now has seven strikeouts in 14 at-bats — but he knows hitters with that profile often pan out for the Orioles.

"It's encouraging, for sure," Washington said. "I try not to think too much about all the stuff like that. I try to just play my game, be the best baseball player I can be, and let everything go how it goes."

With all those sluggers around him, Washington knows camp is an opportunity to see how hitters who in the past have been challenged by the same issues have crafted successful major league careers. He has a locker next to Trumbo, which he said is a "good spot" for observing.

"I try to talk to, I wouldn't necessarily pick anyone out in particular," Washington said. "There's a lot of guys, not just one guy here who can hit for power. I try to take little bits and pieces from anybody I can. I try to do more watching, try to watch how guys work, how they try to do, how they take their at-bats and try to learn that."

Britton, Hardy ready: Zach Britton threw a batting practice session that broke a bat in so many pieces that Showalter and Trumbo jokingly tried to use the tiny shards as toothpicks. It was a sign that Britton is ready to go after slow-playing the first month of spring training with an oblique strain.

"He looked very good," Showalter said. "That was very encouraging.

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J.J. Hardy also was in the group taking BP from Britton and — according to Showalter — also appeared to be ready for the final step in his rehab from a long bout with lower back soreness. Both could show up in a Grapefruit League game this week.

The broken-bat victim was minor leaguer Tucker Nathans, who will have a story to tell his buddies back at Twin Lakes Park.

"I put my arm around Tucker and I said 'Tuck, don't worry about it. There are a lot of broken bats around the league from Zach. Consider it a badge of honor,'" Showalter said. "'Get some of those pieces and take them along with you.'"

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