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Arriving at Orioles minor league spring training this week, Xu Guiyuan, a 20-year-old left-handed-hitting first baseman, is trying to become the first player from mainland China to make it to the big leagues. He's already the first player signed from one of the major league's three youth developmental centers in China, a country that American baseball officials consider fertile ground to grow their sport. He has adopted the nickname "Itchy Shoe," a reference to his hero, Ichiro Suzuki, and the phonetic pronunciation of "Xu." The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Barker is following Xu's journey with daily reports and videos: Can he hit American pitching, much less navigate the pressure and cultural curveballs that accompany his 9,000-mile trip? Barker is involved in a documentary chronicling Xu and Major League Baseball's China push.

Will Xu¿s talents ¿ evident in the cages and against his peers in China ¿ translate against American pitching? That is the big unknown.

The documentary film crew noticed it the first day that Orioles¿ prospect Xu Guiyuan arrived at the Buck O¿Neil spring training complex from China: He was speaking multiple languages.

Xu Guiyuan is seated on the foot of the bed in his cramped hotel room answering my interview questions. The Orioles prospect is switching between English and Mandarin, seeking a comfort level.

Xu Guiyuan, 20, arrived at the minor league players¿ nondescript budget hotel at about 3 in the morning, and immediately chatted with his parents on his laptop to let them know he had arrived safely.

Let¿s talk about the 75 bats that Xu Guiyuan shattered at one of the three Major League Baseball developmental centers in China. That¿s a lot of smashed lumber.

Raw talent can seem exotic, and ¿raw talent¿ is just the phrase that Orioles player development director Brian Graham is using this week to describe Xu Guiyuan, who arrives at his first minor league spring training late Tuesday night.

By signing a prospect from China, the Orioles are in a leadoff spot as baseball eyes the market of world's most populous country.

The Orioles signed 19-year-old Chinese infielder Gui Yuan "Itchy" Xu to an international free agent deal for next season, the club announced Monday.

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