Because Henry Urrutia hadn't played organized baseball in more than two years when he reported to Orioles spring training, the club was comfortable letting the 26-year-old Cuban outfielder get adjusted to professional baseball in the United States in the minor leagues.
After 67 games in the minors, Urrutia will achieve his dream of playing in the majors.
The Orioles plan to add Urrutia, as well as designated hitter Danny Valencia, to their 25-man roster before tonight's game in Texas, according to industry sources.
One of the corresponding moves to clear room on the 25-man roster will be placing Nolan Reimold on the 15-day disabled list with a reoccurance of the neck injury that kept him out for most of last season, a source said. The right-handed-hitting outfielder has been limited to 40 games this season because of a right hamstring injury.
The left-handed-hitting Urrutia (pronounced ooh-ROOT-e-ah), who signed with the Orioles last July for a $778,500 bonus, is hitting .365 with a .427 on-base percentage and .531 slugging percentage with seven home runs and 43 RBIs this season between Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie. He's played just 15 games in Triple-A but went .367/.406/.467 for the Tides, including a .372 batting average against right-handed pitching.
He was present at the Orioles' workout Thursday in Texas.
When the Orioles initially assigned Urrutia to Bowie, they didn't want to promote him until he had 200 at-bats. His defense and base running needed work. Urrutia said his biggest challenge would be developing better plate discipline with a smaller strike zone here. He adjusted quickly, and the Orioles will likely use him as a part-time designated hitter.
The Orioles are also close to signing another Cuban outfielder, agreeing to terms Thursday with 24-year-old Dariel Alvarez, according to an industry source.
The Orioles scouted Alvarez at a showcase in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last month. He is scheduled to report to the Orioles' spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., for a physical and is expected to officially sign a deal with the club as early as this weekend. Because the contract isn't finalized, the source could not disclose the signing bonus.
Alvarez defected from Cuba last summer, played in Mexico and was declared a free agent in January. He is living in Florida.
The Orioles consider Alvarez a five-tool player who can play all three outfield positions and could quickly move up the team's minor league system, much as Urrutia has done.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks all reportedly showed interest in Alvarez.
Because Alvarez is over 23 and played professionally in Cuba for three years, he won't count against the Orioles' international bonus pool.