By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
7:00 AM EDT, March 14, 2014
TAMPA – A glance at the stat sheet shows that outfielder Henry Urrutia is enjoying a tremendous spring.
The 27-year-old Cuban defector is hitting .300 in Grapefruit League play. He has hits in four of his last five game, hitting .400 (6-for-15) in that span.
In the Orioles' 6-0 loss to the New York Yankees Thursday afternoon at Steinbrenner Field, Urrutia was 2-for-3 with a double.
There's no doubt that Urrutia has made tremendous strides in all aspects of his game since his first professional season in the United States last year. He rose through the minor league system quickly and received a taste of the majors. Playing in the Arizona Fall League also helped him grow, as he honed his defense and baserunning.
But a few costly base-running errors this spring could land him in Triple-A to open the season.
In the first inning of Thursday’s game, the Orioles had runners at first and second with one out against Yankees starter Michael Pineda.
Steve Pearce struck a ball to left field that was caught by Alfonso Soriano. Urrutia, who was the runner at first, had rounded second and on his way back to first didn’t touch the second base bag again.
The Yankees appealed the play and Urrutia was called out. It wasn’t the first time Urrutia has been doubled off a base this spring.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has taken notice.
“Urrutia is swinging the bat well, but he’s made two or three base-running mistakes that you can’t make at this level,” Showalter said.
Not much to interpret there.
The battle for the Orioles’ remaining outfielder/designated hitter roster spots is a tight one. As it sits now, it appears there are two roster spots for a group that consists of Urrutia, Nolan Reimold, Steve Pearce and Delmon Young.
If the Orioles go with 13 pitchers to open the season, as has been discussed according to Showalter, that would leave just one open spot.
At this point, Pearce would seem the be the favorite. He leads the club in plate appearances this spring (31) and he’s a known commodity. He can also hit left-handers well – he recorded a .267/.375/.427 slash line against lefties -- and don’t undersell his ability to play first base as well as the outfield.
Reimold is being sent to minor league camp to accumulate plate appearances, which suggests he still needs to get his rhythm and timing back after missing the majority of the past two years.
And while Young began the spring strong, he’s had just one hit over his last 19 at bats with six strikeouts and no walks.
Given all that, Urrutia is by no means out of the mix. But it is obvious his bat alone won’t win him a roster spot.
Urrutia has minor league options and if the organization determines he still has skills to refine and could be a liability at the major league level, he will be wearing a Norfolk uniform to open the season.
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