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Catching up with Orioles playing winter ball

Orioles infielder Ryan Flaherty, coming off a strong rookie season, is expected to join Leones de Escogido of the Dominican Winter League this weekend to get some extra at-bats.

The former Rule 5 pick will have the chance to earn more playing time this spring, primarily at second base.

That offers us a good time to see how other players with Orioles connections are doing on the winter ball circuit.

New Orioles second baseman Alexi Casilla has been playing in the Dominican for the Gigantes del Cibao and is hitting .290/.329/.449 in 16 games there.

The big story has been the success of Zelous Wheeler, who is having a remarkable season playing in the Mexican Pacific League for Algodoneros del Guasave. Wheeler is leading the  entire league in hitting (.351), hits (52) runs (32) and doubles (14). His seven homers and 31 RBIs are also among the league leaders.

Wheeler was in intriguing figure last year. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette signed him during spring training and immediately placed him on the 40-man roster. He opened the season at Tripe-A Norfolk but spent most of the season in Double-A Bowie, mostly disappearing from the major league roster radar.

Now, he’s quietly putting up a strong winter.

Here’s a list of notables playing in the winter leagues. Don’t look too much into the stats. Note that Orioles reliever Luis Ayala’s stats aren’t that great in the Mexican League, but Ayala regularly plays winter ball in his home country.

Dominican Winter League
2B Alexi Casilla (Gigantes): .290/.329/.449, 0 HR, 4 RBIs, 2 SB, 1 CS in 16 G
SS Garabez Rosa (Gigantes): .286/.375/.286 in 7 G
1B Rhyne Hughes (Gigantes): .267/.429/.533, 3 HR, 11 RBI in 21 games
3B Buck Britton (Leones): .235/.316/.294 in 9 games.
Mexican Winter League
3B Zelous Wheeler (Algodoneros): .351/.425/.588, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 32 R, 14 2B in 36 G
LHP Richard Zagone (Yaquis): 0-1, 9.35 ERA, 10 H, 9 ER in 8 2/3 IP
RHP Luis Ayala (Yaquis): 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 6 H, 3 ER in 3 IP

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