PHOENIX — Orioles rookie Henry Urrutia hasn't started a game since Aug. 3, but he was still an important part of the club's eight-game interleague road trip through National League West parks in San Diego, San Francisco and Arizona, as he pinch hit in all but one game.
Urrutia is still getting adjusted to the major league game. When the Cuban defector arrived in Sarasota, Fla., this spring, he hadn't played in more than two seasons, so the organization was determined to give him 200 at-bats at Double- Bowie before promoting him to Triple-A Norfolk. He joined the Orioles right after the All-Star break and has filled in mostly as a left-handed designated hitter, but he isn't getting the same playing time he was in the minors.
"He's just about played every day, he's just gotten one at-bat," manager Buck Showalter said of Urrutia's role on the road trip. "I think it's staying involved mentally and emotionally. It's tough. I think he's handled it pretty well. I was kidding him in the outfield — I know the answer — that they don't have the pitcher hitting in any league in Cuba. … I think he's looking forward to getting back to the American League."
Urrutia is 14-for-49 for the season (.286), but all but one of his hits have been singles — and most of them have been to the opposite field.
"Now he's pinch hitting, that's new, DHing is new to him," Showalter said. "You try to keep that in mind as he's going out there. He keeps his bat in the zone a long time. Those guys that carve the ball down the left-field line, I'd much rather see that than guys that are in and out of the zone, rolling over balls foul. A guy named Wade Boggs used to carve a lot of balls out. [Urrutia is] impressive. He cares, too. He's going to give himself a chance to be good."
Showalter is confident that Urrutia will develop more power. His teammates have raved about his power in batting practice, and in Tuesday's pregame session he hit a blast off the stadium's Diamond Club sign well beyond the right-center fence, a shot that had to be at least 460 feet.
"I can tell you what's going to happen one day is that someone is going to leave a little slider out over the plate and he's going to get the barrel to it and people are going to say, 'Ooh, he's got a little power,'" Showalter said. "It's there. It's hard to show it when you're on the bench. I'm working on it. That's my fault."
Alvarez moves to Frederick
Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez will report to High-A Frederick and be in the Keys starting lineup Thursday.
Before signing with the Orioles for an $800,000 bonus last month, Alvarez hadn't played since December, so the organization wanted to start him with three games in the Gulf Coast League before assigning him to a higher affiliate. Alvarez was 4-for-9 with two RBIs in three GCL games, including a homer in his first at-bat.
With just 20 games remaining in the Carolina League season, the priority is to build up Alvarez's at-bats in Class-A.
Around the horn
Designated hitter Wilson Betemit will report to Double-A Bowie to continue his minor league rehabilitation assignment. Betemit was 3-for-9 in two games with Frederick. The Baysox are at home the next five days, so keeping Betemit local was as much a factor as moving him up a level. … Norfolk's Ron Johnson earned his 1,400th career managerial win on Tuesday. … Wednesday would have been Orioles Hall of Fame manager 's 83rd birthday. Weaver died in January and the Orioles are wearing a patch on their right sleeve to honor him all season. … Matt Wieters, who leads all major league catchers in innings played, received what was supposed to be a day off in Wednesday's game. Taylor Teagarden started in his place, but Wieters pinch hit for him in the 13th inning.