By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun
5:23 PM EST, January 16, 2014
Henry Urrutia stood at his locker Thursday at the Ed Smith Stadium complex and joked that one of the best parts of his day right now is when he walks down the hallway and steps on the scale.
The lanky Orioles left fielder — a Cuban defector who was still trying to get into the United States from Haiti this time last year after visa issues — has put on nearly 20 pounds after an offseason dedicated to increasing muscle mass.
Urrutia played at about 183 pounds last season, but he said Thursday that he weighed 201 pounds. He has more definition in his shoulders and arms and also has worked to increase his leg strength with the hope that the changes help to improve his power.
In his first professional season, Urrutia quickly moved through the Orioles' minor league system, hitting .347/.406/.506 with 21 doubles, nine home runs and 50 RBIs in 81 games between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. But in his brief time in the majors, he struggled to find the same power — 16 of his 17 hits were singles.
"I can feel a change," Urrutia said. "The swing feels nice and smooth and it flies farther."
Urrutia said he constantly spent time in the weight room while playing in the Arizona Fall League and is working out four times per week in Sarasota. Now he looks forward to getting on the scale. Urrutia would like to get to 220 or 225 pounds, but he said that might not happen until next year.
"It's not like he's going back to Cuba," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "With that being said, he could be in Miami, he could be anywhere. He likes it here. He likes being here and he gets it. He's in a good place. I wouldn't be surprised … he might take off. ...
"This guy hasn't had much failure. It's not like he went out in the fall league and got the bat stuck up his [butt]. He likes what he does. Some guys like being around the environment and the bells and whistles, but don't like the other part. He likes the other part, too."
Showalter said that he has seen Urrutia grasp how important his defense is going to be for his chance of making the Orioles, especially since he is one of 10 players competing for at-bats in left field and at designated hitter in major league camp this spring.
"Every chance he gets, you see him running around the outfield," Showalter said. "He's worked hard at it.
"This is the first time that he can take a breath. He knows what's coming, he knows what's ahead of him, he knows what's going on here in the states. He's in a good place. I just talked to him again. He's happy. You can tell. It's just there and I think you're going to see it. I think he's going to be a force to be reckoned with in the spring. I've always been impressed with Henry, especially with all the things that."
Reimold takes first swings
Outfielder Nolan Reimold took batting practice Thursday, the first time he has seen live pitching since he was having corrective neck surgery last July. Reimold was cleared to resume full baseball activities around Christmas.
"It felt good," Reimold said. "I feel a lot more comfortable. It's definitely better than it was, way better than the start last year. And the biggest gains you make are when you start swinging every day, get all those little functional muscles that can build themselves up. I felt pretty good."
Reimold, who has been limited to 56 games over the past two years because of two serious neck surgeries, said that he felt much more loose and relaxed at the plate than when he tried to return this time last year from surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck.
"It was good to get out there," Reimold said. "Taking BP is fun. I wish the wind wasn't blowing in 30 mph, but it was still good to get out there again. Getting in my stance is a lot more comfortable. Last year, I couldn't really pick up a bat and be relaxed because my neck and my traps and my upper back were just all balled up.
"I remember [vice president of baseball operations] Brady [Anderson] telling me, 'Nolan, go up there and be as relaxed as you can.' And I said, 'Brady, I can't. I physically can't go up there and hold a bat and be relaxed.' In that regard, it felt a lot better. When I was up there getting in my stance and swinging, it felt loose and fluid. Good."
Now Reimold can concentrate on getting ready for the season.
"Even just from hitting in the cage yesterday and hitting today, it feels a lot better. It's just a matter of repetitions, getting muscle memory back and working on getting your body in shape to swing a lot with those muscles."
Aceves to work as starter
Showalter said he spoke with Alfredo Aceves, whom the team signed Wednesday to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, by conference call with pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti.
"It was interesting hearing his decision about why [he chose the Orioles] and who else was offering on him," Showalter said. "He had three other pretty solid offers pretty close to ours and at least one in the American League East."
Showalter said he plans for Aceves — who has experience both in the rotation and in relief — to begin spring training as a starter, but he could move to the bullpen.
"He said he'd do whatever, but I think he was happy to hear we'd go down that road to start with," Showalter said.
Around the horn
After finishing in Sarasota on Thursday, Wallace and Chiti were scheduled to fly to Southern California for an extension of minicamp there, where they will meet with pitchers Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and possibly Wei-Yin Chen. … Manny Machado was scheduled to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed his offseason left knee surgery in October, in Los Angeles on Thursday evening to be cleared to resume baseball activities. … As of Thursday afternoon, the Orioles had yet to announce their signing of outfielder Tyler Colvin to a major league deal. Colvin had a physical in Baltimore on Wednesday. … The team hired Marco Gentile to be the vice president of corporate partnerships. He had previously worked with the Washington Capitals for the past 6 1/2 years.
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