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Orioles Hoping Henry Urrutia Finds His Power Stroke

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ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 20: Henry Urrutia #51 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 20, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.

Henry Urrutia (Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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By Rich Arleo

CBS Local Sports, as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, is profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.

Henry Urrutia, Outfield/Designated Hitter, Baltimore Orioles

2013 season (Minors): 81 G, 314 AB, .347 BA, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 1 SB, .913 OPS

2013 season (Majors): 24 G, 58 AB, .276 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB, .586 OPS

The recent influx of Cuban players into Major League Baseball can’t be ignored. In earlier years, a handful of Cuban defectors made it to the bigs, but now the number seems to increase each year.

We’ve recently seen Cuban imports such as Yoenis Cespedes, Aroldis Chapman and Yasiel Puig make big-time immediate impacts with major league clubs. The lesser-known Jose Iglesias, Leonys Martin and Kendrys Morales have become dependable everyday players as well. And the influx has continued this off-season, as slugger Jose Abreu signed with the Chicago White Sox and shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena joined the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fellow shortstop Aledmys Diaz is also anticipated to sign shortly.

Baltimore Orioles’ outfielder and designated hitter Henry Urrutia will also likely make his mark in 2014. The 27-year-old arrived in the United States almost exactly one year ago, after defecting from Cuba. He joined the Bowie Baysox, the Baltimore Orioles’ Double-A affilate, having not played in a game since 2010.

Urrutia’s impressive bat proved to be a force, as he hit .365 with a .983 OPS, seven home runs, 16 doubles and 37 RBI in 52 games with the Baysox. He was moved up to Triple-A, where his success continued, and was then called up in July, when the Orioles suffered a series of injuries. He showed he could hit major league pitching, though the power didn’t exactly translate. After 21 games, he was sent back down to Triple-A. He saw some more action in the majors as a September call-up.

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In all, Urrutia went 16-for-58 (.276), with all of his hits being singles. He struck out just 11 times and didn’t walk, so he clearly likes to — and knows how to — put the bat to the ball. The left-hander played mostly against righties, with 15 of his 16 hits coming against them in 51 at-bats.

Obvious adjustments have to be made, and the O’s hope the power he displayed in the minors shows up this season. But in spring training he has the inside track to get at-bats when right-handers are on the mound.

The most likely scenario seems to be that Urrutia would be the left-handed part of a DH platoon. The recent Nelson Cruz signing makes the situation a bit murkier. But of the outfielders who could see time at DH (Cruz, Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce), Markakis is the only other lefty. That alone makes it likely that Urrutia will have a chance to contribute, should he get a power stroke going and consistently hit righties.

Next up: Michael Pineda, New York Yankees

Check out the entire 30 Players 30 Days series.

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been a professional writer and editor since graduating in 2010. Find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for more of his sports musings.

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