ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Orioles officially purchased the contract of Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia before Friday’s game against the Texas Rangers. The club designated outfielder Chris Dickerson for assignment to clear a roster spot.
The left-handed hitting Urrutia will make his first major league start Saturday as the designated hitter against Texas right-hander Ross Wolf, manager Buck Showalter said.
Urrutia, who was signed to a $778,500 signing bonus last July but was stranded in the Dominican Republic and Haiti with visa issues, needed just 67 minor league games to make it to the majors. He batted .365/.427/.531 with seven homers and 43 RBIs at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.
“I was expecting in the beginning that maybe I would get called up in September,” Urrutia said in Spanish through Orioles minor league coach Ramon Sambo. “But [seeing] how everything was going on and how I was progressing, I was kind of feeling, ‘Maybe I’m doing better. Maybe I’ll make it quicker.’ There was more satisfaction when I found out I was coming here. It was very exciting.”
While Urrutia seems to be an easy replacement for Dickerson as a left-handed DH and spot-start outfielder, Showalter wouldn’t define his role.
“He’s handled himself well against left-handed and right-handed pitching at the Double-A and Triple-A level, but we’ll see,” Showalter said. “He’s now making the biggest jump in sports … This is the biggest jump in pitching from there to here. … This is the big leagues. That’s why it’s so gratifying if you can do it. You know you haven’t skated on anything. You know you’ve earned your way.”
When he arrived this spring, the 26-year-old Urrutia hadn’t played in more than two seasons, so the organization was steadfast about giving him enough minor league at bats to shake off rust, get adjusted to pro ball in the U.S. and refine his defense and baserunning.
“That’s one thing that they told me I really needed to get better at,” Urrutia said of his defense. “When he got to Bowie, I got a lot of help. … And I feel I really progressed a lot. When I got to Norfolk, I felt like I already got through those aspects. But I still feel I have stuff to learn with the game. Right now, I’m ready to go.”
Dickerson could be traded
The Orioles will have 10 days to trade, release, or have Dickerson clear waivers, and it appears that the club is gauging trade interest for the 31-year-old outfielder.
“I think that will play itself out in the next couple days,” Showalter said. “I don’t think that story has been completely written yet. There’s been some things we’ve talked about, and I think Chris is going to get a chance to play more, [which is] something that I know he wanted, too. He’s been a contributor for us in a lot of ways, a very good defender, and somebody is going to end up with a very good player.
Dickerson has batted .245/.274/.412 with four homers and 13 RBIs in his first season with the Orioles. He beat the Detroit Tigers with a three-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning May 31.
Around the horn
Right-hander Steve Johnson, rehabbing a left oblique strain, is scheduled to pitch two innings Saturday in a Gulf Coast League game. The next step for the St. Paul’s alum would be pitching at short-season Single-A Aberdeen. … First-round pick Hunter Harvey made his professional debut Friday, pitching a scoreless inning for the Orioles’ GCL team, allowing one hit and striking out one. … The Orioles announced their rotation for their upcoming series in Kansas City. Scott Feldman will make his first start of the second half Monday, and Jason Hammel is slated to pitch Tuesday. The Orioles will stay in turn from there, with Wei-Yin Chen starting Wednesday and Miguel Gonzalez going Thursday. … Wilson Betemit, still rehabbing a Grade 2/3 PCL tear, is now being timed running 90-foot intervals and Showalter hasn’t ruled him out as a possibility for the second half.