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Orioles minor league hitter of the year Joe Mahoney was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday morning after hitting .412 (seven hits in 17 at-bats) in limited action. The 6-foot-6 first baseman, who was sidelined the past two games after tweaking his hamstring while running the bases Friday, made quite an impression in his first big league camp.

"This guy really popped last year with his skill set," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He's a slightly above-average runner, capable of playing left field and first base. I like that he wasn't intimidated by the level of play. He's right where he should be. I think he's primed to have that year that's similar to last year and maybe even better."

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Mahoney, a sixth-round pick in 2006, emerged as a prospect last season by hitting .299 with nine homers in 72 games at High-A Frederick and .319 with nine homers in 52 games at Double-A Bowie.

With an expected logjam in the corner infield at Triple-A, it's possible Mahoney starts the season at Bowie again. Just because he has been optioned to the Triple-A roster doesn't mean he'll start out there. Regardless, Showalter thinks Mahoney could rise quickly if he continues to build on his impressive 2010.

"Where he ends up is up to him," Showalter said. "Where he starts is up to [player development]."

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