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Red-hot Urrutia continues to impress at Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 11 July 2013 by Luke Jones

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BALTIMORE — With Dylan Bundy recently undergoing Tommy John surgery and Kevin Gausman just optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, there isn’t a player in the Orioles system garnering more attention than Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia at the moment.

So it came as no surprise when Orioles outfielder Chris Dickerson was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup with a strained left shoulder that many began wondering if the 26-year-old Urrutia could be on his way to Baltimore. The veteran Dickerson was feeling better on Thursday, decreasing the likelihood of a trip to the 15-day disabled list, but it’s appearing more like a question of when and not if Urrutia will make his major league debut this season.

Even manager Buck Showalter jokingly asked prior to Thursday’s game what was wrong with the left-handed hitter after collecting only one hit in the Tides’ loss to Gwinnett earlier in the day. Urrutia was 5-for-5 on Wednesday and is now hitting .357 in 56 at-bats for Norfolk after hitting .365 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs in 200 at-bats for Double-A Bowie prior to his late-June promotion.

With the Orioles unable to find any consistent production at the designated hitter spot through the first half of the season, Urrutia would appear to be moving closer to consideration for an opportunity in Baltimore. At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, he remains awkward in the outfield despite his improvement, but his bat is what has many salivating over.

Urrutia will play for the World Team in Sunday’s Futures Game at Citi Field as part of next week’s All-Star Game festivities in New York.

“I think he’s getting closer to being an option. He’s certainly done his part,” Showalter said. “The thing that I’ve been happy to hear about is his defensive play has been good. He’s one of those type of guys that takes up a lot of the batter’s box when he puts his body in it. [Norfolk manager Ron Johnson] said he’s kind of one of those guys you expect to get a hit.”

Urrutia defected from Cuba to Haiti in 2011 before being signed by the Orioles last year to a contract that included a $778,500 bonus. He finally obtained a work visa late in spring training before eventually reporting to Bowie in April and he’s been hitting ever since.

His performance has been even more impressive when you consider the long layoff he experienced from competitive baseball due to his struggles in escaping his home country. Urrutia’s initial attempt to defect from Cuba was unsuccessful, which drew him a suspension for their 2011 season before he was finally able to exit the country later that year.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and Showalter weren’t exactly sure what kind of condition Urrutia would be in when he reported to Sarasota earlier this year, but they knew they had a major-league caliber talent on their hands upon finally seeing him.

“He’s had a lot thrown at him this year that’s new in his life,” Showalter said. “Starting from getting out of Haiti to getting here and getting acclimated to America and a lot of different things we take for granted. It’s been a long, patient road for him.”

Though not projected to have the same home-run power of other recent Cuban defectors such as Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig, Urrutia displayed good gap power with the Baysox, collecting 16 doubles to go along with his seven homers. In his brief time with Norfolk, Urrutia has four doubles and a triple but has yet to connect for his first Triple-A home run.

If he can even come close to replicating his production between the two levels at the big-league level, the Orioles may have a solution to their season-long problem at the DH spot sooner rather than later.

“He hits a lot of sharp, topspin groundballs kind of skidding the other way too,” Showalter said. “He’s swinging [the bat] well. I’m proud of him.”

NOTES: Dickerson was examined by team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens prior to Thursday’s game and received an injection in his left shoulder, but Showalter anticipated the reserve outfielder being available to contribute over the weekend. … Right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson threw live batting practice in Sarasota on Thursday and could next pitch in a sim game in his recovery from a strained left oblique that’s kept him on the DL since June 6. … Infield prospect Jonathan Schoop played in his first minor-league rehab game with the Gulf Coast League Orioles on Thursday, going 0-for-2 with a walk before being lifted in the seventh inning. He is expected to play rehab games there for the next week or so before rejoining Norfolk’s roster. … Zach Britton will start on Sunday for the Tides with Kevin Gausman scheduled to pitch in relief after him. The two were optioned to Norfolk following Tuesday’s loss to the Rangers. … Asked how rare it was to have three All-Star starters (Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and J.J. Hardy) who were acquired via trades, Showalter offered the line of the day in acknowledging the club’s fourth All-Star representative Manny Machado: “Manny was kind of a trade too. We traded our season the year before to be able to draft him.” Of course, the 2009 Orioles went 64-98, putting the organization in position to draft Machado with the third overall pick of the 2010 draft.

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Orioles prospects Urrutia, Rodriguez selected to play in Futures Game

Posted on 26 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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The Orioles figure to send several players to next month’s All-Star Game in New York, but their minor-league system will also be represented as Double-A outfielder Henry Urrutia and Single-A pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez have been selected to play in the Futures Game.

Both players will play for the World Team in the minor-league contest taking place July 14 at Citi Field.

Urrutia, a Cuban outfielder in the midst of his first year in the Orioles system, was also chosen to represent the Baysox in the Eastern League All-Star Game. He is hitting .365 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs and is rumored to be heading to Triple-A Norfolk in the near future.

At 26, the defector could arrive in Baltimore sooner rather than later as he’s impressed with his hitting prowess and has improved defensively in his time with Bowie.

Rodriguez, a 20-year-old from Venezuela, is 6-4 with a 2.85 earned run average in 14 starts for Frederick this season. He is regarded by many as the best pitching prospect in the system behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy.

The southpaw threw a scoreless inning in last week’s Carolina-California League All-Star Game.

Last year, Bundy and Manny Machado were selected to play in the Futures Game before both made their major league debuts later in the 2012 season. Other Orioles to appear in the minor-league contest in past years included Zach Britton, Jim Johnson, Brian Matusz, and Chris Tillman.

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Cuban outfielder Urrutia moving closer to officially joining Orioles

Posted on 28 February 2013 by WNST Staff

The Orioles made news back in July by agreeing to a minor-league deal with Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia that included a $778,500 signing bonus and it appears the 26-year-old will officially join the organization later this week.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette confirmed to reporters that Urrutia has arrived in Florida after obtaining his work visa in Haiti and is expected to report to the Orioles’ minor-league complex at Twin Lakes Park in the next few days. Urrutia will need to pass his physical, which will be more than a foregone conclusion since the club doesn’t know what kind of shape he’s in after he was unable to obtain a work visa to come to the United States last summer.

Their original agreement was pending a physical, so the Orioles would not be on the hook for any payment if he proves to be unfit.

Urrutia is a switch hitter with a line-drive stroke that’s more polished from the left side, according to several scouting reports. In his final season in Cuba in 2010, he batted .397 with a .461 on-base percentage and .597 slugging percentage in 305 at-bats with 12 home runs. The outfielder also had more walks (32) than strikeouts (23) and was tied for ninth in the league in on-base percentage.

Urrutia did not play in 2011 due to a suspension after he attempted to defect from Cuba. The Orioles planned to assign him to Double-A Bowie last summer after agreeing to terms, but his inability to leave Haiti prevented that from happening.

He lacks the upside of recent Cuban defectors Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler but is considered to have reasonable major-league potential.

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Orioles ink Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia to minor-league contract

Posted on 11 July 2012 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have signed Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia to a minor-league deal, according to a Baseball America report.

The 25-year-old reportedly received a bonus of $778,500 for signing with Baltimore. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound corner outfielder played in Cuba’s top league at least three seasons before defecting to the United States.

Urrutia is a switch hitter with a line-drive stroke that’s more polished from the left side, according to several scouting reports.

In his final season in Cuba, he batted .397 with a .461 on-base percentage and .597 slugging percentage in 305 at-bats with 12 home runs. The outfielder also had more walks (32) than strikeouts (23) and tied for ninth in the league in on-base percentage.

Urrutia lacks the upside of recent Cuban defectors Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler, but he is considered to have reasonable major-league potential. Given his age, he will likely report to one of the Orioles’ higher-level affiliates in the near future.

 

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