Fort Myers, Fla. — Orioles catcher Chance Sisco appears hell-bent to make everyone forget last season as quickly as possible.
He homered in his first at-bat of the Grapefruit League exhibition season Saturday and blasted two more in Wednesday’s 7-6 victory over the split-squad Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park.
And he wasn’t quite done. In his third at-bat, he delivered an run-scoring single for his fifth RBI of the game.
Sisco isn’t one to talk a lot about himself, but he has to be enjoying his place among the major league home run and RBI leaders, even if it is only spring training.
“I feel good right now,” he said. “Obviously, after a day like that, I guess you could say that, but I'm just focusing on having good at-bats, putting the barrel on the ball like I always say, and trying to have good at-bats. I feel really good up there, but just trying to stay there as long as possible.”
Obviously, he was disappointed in the way last season went. He started the year playing regularly behind the plate and could not hold his place on the major league roster, batting just .181 with two homers in 160 at-bats.
“There was a lot of ups-and-downs,” Sisco said. “I'm not really thinking about that anymore. I've learned from it and moved past it right now.”
Manager Brandon Hyde said he’s enjoying the show, but isn’t going to jump to any early conclusions.
“I'm going to continue to give him at-bats and continue to play him behind the plate, and it's just confidence,’’ Hyde said. “I just want to give him as much confidence as I can, and really believe in the guy. He swung the bat great today. Great to see.”
Ynoa makes solid debut
Gabriel Ynoa was greeted rudely when he took the mound before a sellout crowd Wednesday, but he walked off it two innings later feeling pretty good about himself.
It wasn’t the crowd that got on him. Red Sox leadoff man Jackie Bradley Jr. hammered an 0-2 pitch over the Fenway Park-replica center-field wall to remind Ynoa that he’s competing for a job in the tough American League East, but the O’s right-hander didn’t wilt in Florida sun.
He settled in after that and delivered a solid performance, striking out two and allowing just two infield hits in his 2019 Grapefruit League debut.
“I thought he was pretty good,’’ Hyde said. “He made a bad pitch the first hitter of the game, hung and 0-2 changeup that he obviously would love to have back, but after that, I thought he pitched well. Threw some good sliders. Kind of a veteran guy. I saw him in New York a couple years ago, been around a little bit. Knows how to pitch, just made a mistake on the first.”
Ynoa never made it to the mound at the major league level during the 2018 season because of a nagging lower leg injury and right shoulder inflammation, but said he feels “100 percent healthy” this spring and is ready to fight for a place on the major league pitching staff.
Baltimore Orioles Insider
“This is a very important year for me,” Ynoa said through interpreter Ramon Alarcon. “The new staff, they want to meet me, they want to see me out there. I want to show them what I can do and show them that I can help this team.”
Martin’s big day
The way Sisco was killing the ball, it was hard for anyone else to stand out, but shortstop Richie Martin went 2-for-2 with a walk in three plate appearances and scored three times — all on RBI swings by Sisco. In his final at-bat, Martin broke a tie at 4 in the fifth with a two-run double to the wall in right center.
There weren’t a lot of other offensive highlights in the game. Third baseman Renato Núñez had two hits and scored a run and Rio Ruiz walked and scored in the Orioles’ three-run fifth.
Rookie right-hander Evan Phillips, who gave up 11 earned runs in five appearances after joining the Orioles last August, made a second straight scoreless appearance Wednesday. He followed Ynoa to the mound and struck out Bradley and Mookie Betts in a one-hit inning.
Paul Fry, Branden Kline and Tanner Scott also pitched scoreless innings.
Hyde liked the way just about everyone went about attacking the strike zone.
“I just heard I think we were ahead over 30 times—I think 30 first-pitch strikes, 30-ish first-pitch strikes,’’ he said. “That's something we've been preaching all along, being aggressive with strike one. Our guys that did it today put the ball on the ground a lot yesterday, had that one bad inning. Same thing yesterday, working ahead. Some defensive swings.”