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Orioles are cutting a Dominican minor-league team

One year after expanding their Dominican Republic operation to two minor league teams, the Orioles are going back to one Dominican Summer League squad for 2011.

It’s the second minor-league club the Orioles’ organization has cut this year, announcing in late August that it was halting its rookie-level affiliate in Bluefield, West Virginia.

Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail said only a handful of clubs have two separate teams in the DSL and he did not believe that the quality of players in the Orioles’ academy warranted two entrants.

That belief was confirmed when former interim manager Juan Samuel evaluated the Orioles’ Dominican operation this summer and concluded that reducing the number of players would improve the quality of instruction and baseball experience for the remaining prospects.

“I just think our resources are better applied elsewhere,” MacPhail said Wednesday.

The organization’s international efforts have been a subject of criticism for years. The most successful Dominican major leaguer the organization has produced in the past decade was the enigmatic Daniel Cabrera, who had a 5.10 ERA in six seasons and didn’t pitch in the majors at all in 2010. The Orioles have never produced their own Venezuelan major leaguer and no 2010 major league Opening Day roster included an international player originally signed by the Orioles.

In the past, MacPhail has stressed the need to emphasize international scouting, signing and developing, which included a new facility in the Dominican and spending more money on international amateurs. But the club still lags far behind many other organizations in number of international scouts employed and money allocated for foreign signees – as well as legitimate international prospects.

One of last year’s Dominican teams is now a casualty of that reality.

“We'll be filtering out some of the players that had an ample opportunity to show they can play,” said John Stockstill, the Orioles’ director of player development. “One team appears to be adequate at this time.”

With the reduction of Bluefield and the Dominican Summer League club, the Orioles are going from nine to seven affiliates, a streamlining of the system and its talent base.

“You have to be realistic about the players you have,” Stockstill said. “Any scout likes the opportunity to have more longshot players that might take longer to pan out, but I don’t see this as a setback.”

Overall, the Orioles are expected to reduce their number of minor leaguers by about 60 – much of that reduction will occur through natural attrition from one season to the next.

There should be little effect on the Orioles’ staffing. Bobby Dickerson, who was the organization’s Latin America field coordinator in the beginning of 2010, was needed to manage the Triple-A Norfolk affiliate in June. That coordinator position will not be filled and Dickerson, one of the more versatile coaches in the system, will be utilized elsewhere, Stockstill said.

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