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Joseph goes from punchline to No. 1

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) Caleb Joseph has gone from being a punchline in 2016 to being the Baltimore Orioles No. 1 catcher - at least for now.

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Joseph went through the entire season in 2016 - during which he had 132 at-bats - without a single RBI.

He rebounded last season, driving in 28 runs, and has swung a hot bat this spring.

Entering Tuesday's game at Minnesota, Joseph was batting a cool .444 (8-for-18) with a home run and 5 RBIs, and at least for now, Joseph is the Orioles' starting catcher.

''It's spring training. That sums it up,'' Joseph said. ''There's been springs when you didn't get any hits. There's been springs where you've gotten a ton of hits. I wish it mattered.''

The 31-year-old catcher endured years of minor league ball - including five seasons at Double-A Bowie, where he set an unwanted franchise record for most games played.

Joseph finally made it to the big leagues in 2014, and after sitting behind Matt Wieters and Welington Castillo, he's inherited - or earned - Baltimore's catching job.

''My 11th year in the organization. I busted my rear, not only to make it, but to stay,'' Joseph said. ''It feels good, a little sense of accomplishment. I don't think you ever get comfortable. I'd be lying if you didn't say it feels pretty good. Eleven years, that's a long time.''

The Orioles have a young catcher, Chance Sisco, who they're hoping will be their receiver for years, but his defense may not be big-league ready.

While they wait for Sisco, manager Buck Showalter has no problem with having Joseph as his starter behind the plate.

''He's as good a game caller as there is in the league now,'' Showalter said. ''That's very comforting for us and the pitchers.''

When Andrew Cashner made his first start for Baltimore on March 11, Joseph naturally caught him, and even though they hadn't worked together before, Cashner was full of praise.

''Great receiver, we talked about the game plan before the game,'' Cashner said. ''I tried some things I probably won't do during the season, more so just working on it right now.''

It was fun for Joseph, too.

''It's like the first day of school,'' Joseph said. ''Go catch him, see what he likes to do, see how the pitches move, and then review it later, and then start over and do it all over again. There's things that you start learning and figuring out about people in mid-June. It's just how it is.''

Joseph is working not only with Sisco, but two other catchers who have a chance to play with him this season, Andrew Susac and Austin Wynns. The mentoring is something important for Joseph.

''There's a greater sense of responsibility, though and that's the most important thing,'' Joseph said.

''You're trying to help bridge that gap. It's the stuff that Wieters did with me, tips and tricks, asking them things, helping them, maybe trying to understand things,'' he said. ''It's going to pick up even more as we get even closer.''

NOTES: OF/DH Mark Trumbo is scheduled to return from a strained right quad Wednesday. ... 1B Chris Davis is nearing a return from a sore right elbow. He had a cortisone shot on March 10. ... RHP Gabriel Ynoa is likely to start the season on the 10-day disabled list due to shin splints.

---

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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