Mar 13, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Henry Urrutia (51) at bat against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
One of the few Baltimore Orioles players having a decent offensive performance in the early weeks of spring training is outfielder Henry Urrutia. Currently he is 6-for-16 with a pair of doubles and four runs batted in. He has also walked twice and only been struck out once.
Improvement is seen even in using the term “outfielder” to describe him, rather than calling him a designated hitter. After defecting from Cuba and losing time playing baseball due to all of the legal issues, Urrutia was simply not ready to play outfield at all in 2013. But he could hit!
In 2013 he began his career by starting at AA Bowie where he batted .365 in 52 games with seven home runs. He was moved up to AAA where, after a short adjustment, he batted .316 in 29 games with a pair of homers.
This earned him a call-up to the Baltimore Orioles where he made his debut on July 20th. In 24 games he batted .276, showing an ability to hit the opposite way with many singles through the left side of the infield.
Next came the Arizona Fall League. Urrutia hit .377 and was third overall in league batting.
Unfortunately, 2014 happened. Urrutia hit .262 in spring training but did not inspire sufficiently to make the Baltimore Orioles roster heading north. The disappointment was obvious and hit him hard.
He got off to a bad start at Norfolk. He was batting a paltry .220 at the end of April. And then a sports hernia injury took him out for all of May and June. He came back to play for the Gulf Coast Orioles team and only hit .230 there.
Finally in August, Urrutia was moved back to the Tides. There he did hit .310 for the final month of the season, salvaging something of worth from his 2014 efforts.
He recently turned age 28. By comparison, he was born two days after Brian Matusz. He’s not a young guy by minor league standards.
Could he make the Orioles team this year? Apart from some unforeseen events, it would still seem a long shot. Possibly if David Lough has a terrible spring it could happen, or if some injury befell others ahead of him such as Alejandro De Aza, Delmon Young, or Travis Snider.
However, 2016 could be quite a different story. There will be free agency for De Aza, Young, and Steve Pearce. One could imagine Urrutia becoming a fixture in the Orioles’ future for a number of years after this season. I frankly not only believe it is possible, I expect that to happen.
Buck Showalter regularly praises his work ethic and teachable nature. How can you not root for a guy like this?
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Brian Matusz had a nice start for the Orioles against the Rays. The only ball hit hard off him was a mistake in the middle of the plate. He mixed pitches well and shut out Tampa Bay for his three innings of work. It is clear to see that he has especially nasty stuff against lefties. It will be an interesting story of this spring training to see what happens with Matusz.
With the Rays down a starter on the news of Drew Smyly being out for a time, Saturday’s starter Nate Karns was really impressive. He could be a part of their rotation. I don’t know how the Rays are going to score many runs this year, but their ability to produce young pitching is amazing.