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Notes on Henry Urrutia, Josh Stinson, more as O's prepare for Grapefruit League finale

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Orioles will play their final spring game in Florida tonight, hosting the Tampa Bay Rays in their Grapefruit League finale under the lights at Ed Smith Stadium.

The club then has an off day Friday before departing for Norfolk to play their Triple-A affiliate Saturday afternoon. Orioles manager Buck Showalter has insisted in recent days that he wants Friday to be a true off day, even though he could send pitchers to the minor league complex to get work in if he deems necessary.

From Norfolk, the team will head to Baltimore, likely leaving some of their final roster cuts in Virginia to open the season in Triple-A. They’ll have a workout Sunday starting at 3:05 p.m. to simulate the Opening Day preparation routine for Monday.

Yesterday was eye-opening in terms of putting the club's 25-man Opening Day roster together. The Orioles’ decision to place Nolan Reimold on the 15-day disabled list to open the season has sorted out the outfield bench spots. It’s unofficial, but Steve Pearce and Delmon Young will make this team.

It’s never easy telling a player he’s not making the club, but Showalter said his conversation with outfielder Henry Urrutia was an especially difficult one.

“He was really disappointed,” Showalter said after Wednesday night's game. “I knew that one was going to be tough, but you think about where he was last year at this time. He’s improved, or maybe we just got to know him better. He’s in a position where he can really help us. He’s up for a great year if he goes down there with a great attitude, and I think he will.”

Urrutia, a Cuban defector who came to the Orioles last spring after not playing for two seasons, has made significant strides with his defense and base running. He threw out Grady Sizemore at second base in yesterday’s day game when Sizemore tried to stretch a single into a double. He had a few glaring base-running miscues early in the Grapefruit League, but seemed to be more aware as the spring went along.

Having said that, Urrutia seems to be pulling the ball more than last season, and overall, he looks more comfortable in the box. And Showalter will always be a fan of the way Urrutia has made the difficult adjustment of coming to the United States look easy.

Showalter wouldn’t say that right-hander Josh Stinson has made the team, but Stinson has had a remarkable spring. In his third multiple-inning spring outing on Wednesday night, he allowed an unearned run and walked three, but all six of his outs came by strikeout.

Over nine spring innings, Stinson has not allowed an earned run (two runs have been unearned) and has yielded just four hits while striking out 13 and walking five. In three two-inning stints, he allowed just one hit and one unearned run.

If that doesn’t win Stinson a roster spot – combined with the fact that he’s out of minor league options – I’m not sure what would. And there’s something about Stinson’s stuff that leads me to believe that he could be a closer candidate if the Orioles’ original options don’t shake out.

One of the little victories of Wednesday night’s 4-4 tie was seeing Tommy Hunter and Zach Britton go back-to-back days for the first time.

Britton faced just one hitter, but he struck out David DeJesus swinging on a 93-mph sinker, stranding runners at second and third.

The observing eye can see that Britton is being prepared for a late-inning relief role. He’s been working on pitching from the stretch for a while, getting extra work in the bullpen while practicing from the stretch and pitching in games from the stretch even with no one on base.

They’re preparing Britton -- who is also out of options -- to be a guy in the late innings who can come in and get a big out with runners on base, and that’s what he did on Wednesday.

Britton has allowed just one earned run over 10 2/3 innings this spring, yielding just six hits.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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