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Upping the affiliate count

After a three-year absence, the Orioles once again will field a Gulf Coast League team in Sarasota, Fla.

Orlando Gomez, a batting practice pitcher and bullpen catcher last season, will serve as manager.

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The Orioles join the Royals and Mets as the only teams with seven affiliates. The Gulf Coast League is regarded as a notch below short-season Bluefield.

Gary Allenson has been named the manager at Triple-A Norfolk. He previously served as Ottawa's manager before leaving the organization when the Orioles failed to interview him for the manager's job that went to Lee Mazzilli. He managed at Bluefield this year.

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Bien Figueroa will manage at Double-A Bowie, Tommy Thompson at Single-A Frederick, Gary Kendall at low Single-A Delmarva, Andy Etchebarren at short-season Single-A Aberdeen and Alex Arias at Bluefield.

Switching to the Rule 5 draft, Chris Kline from Baseball America lists the five players to keep an eye on next week:

Pitcher Pedro Strop, 21: A converted infielder who went 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA in 26 innings at rookie-level Casper and low Single-A Asheville. He has a 93-95 mph fastball and a plus-slider.

Pitcher Jason Motte: A former catcher and 19th-round pick in 2003 who was 2-3 with a 3.69 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 37 innings at short-season State College and low Single-A Quad Cities. His fastball usually tops at 94 mph.

Pitcher David Shinskie: One of the best athletes available and owner of a plus-slider. Fastball usually stays in the 90-92 mph range.

Pitcher Jim Ed Warden: I'd take this guy strictly because of his name. Former sixth-round pick in 2001 and a starter his first three seasons, he went 5-2 with a 2.90 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 59 innings at Double-A Akron. He has a plus-change and a fastball in the 90-93 mph range.

Pitcher Casey Hoorelbeke: 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 72 innings at Double-A Jacksonville, and 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in 19 innings in the Arizona Fall League. His fastball usually stays below 90 mph.

Kline also mentioned Aberdeen pitcher Bob McCrory, who was throwing 96 mph, and Gregorio Petit from Oakland's organization. Petit is a slick-fielding middle infielder with speed who could be "the second coming of Hector Luna in the Rule 5," according to Kline.

Two new acquistions for the Orioles - J.R. House and Josh Phelps - are available in the draft. So are former No. 1 pick Beau Hale and former catching  prospect Eli Whiteside.

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