One of the most important acquisitions for the Orioles last winter can’t be found on the major league roster or at one of the minor league affiliates. He’s currently in Costa Rica on another scouting mission.
Fred Ferreira, hired in December as the executive director of international recruiting, is responsible for this week’s signing of 25-year-old Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia.
Urrutia, who received a $778,500 bonus, batted .397/.461/.597 with 12 homers, 32 walks and 23 strikeouts in 305 at-bats in his final season in Cuba. Ferreira scouted him “more than once, but not that long ago.”
“He’s a good-looking athlete,” said Ferreira, whose list of signees over the years includes Vladimir Guerrero, Bernie Williams, Orlando Cabrera, Jose Vidro, Roberto Kelly and Javier Vazquez.
“He’s put together very well. He’s a switch-hitting outfielder and I love his left-handed swing with power. I think he’s going to be a good left-handed hitter with power. He’s an exciting, aggressive hitter.”
Urrutia is expected to begin his professional career at Double-A Bowie.
“It’s not going to take him that long,” Ferreira said. “He’s a player who’s going to come quickly. He won’t be down long. I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts out at Double-A and moves up to Triple-A, and maybe he gets a look in September. It very well could happen. He has that kind of makeup.”
Urrutia is a corner outfielder who’s regarded as an average runner with a plus-arm.
“He won’t hurt you defensively in any spot you put him,” Ferreira said, “but right now he’s a corner outfielder.”
Earlier this year, Ferreira scouted and recommended right-hander Miguel Gonzalez after watching him pitch in Mexico. Gonzalez, who signed a minor league deal on March 4 after the Red Sox released him three months earlier, posted a 1.61 ERA in 14 games with Triple-A Norfolk. He’s got a 1.93 ERA in four appearances and 18 2/3 innings with the Orioles, and he’s earned, at least temporarily, a spot in the rotation.
In his first major league start on July 6, Gonzalez held the Angels to one run and three hits over seven innings in Anaheim. He’s scheduled to pitch again on Monday in Minnesota.
“I’m real happy with Miguel Gonzalez,” Ferreira said. “I saw him in Mexico before the Caribbean World Series. I saw him throw nine consecutive fastballs and strike out three batters. Nine consecutive fastballs at the knees with movement. He’s really done well.”
So has Ferreira.
NOTE: The Orioles activated Norfolk catcher Luis Exposito from the minor league disabled list, and he’ll be behind the plate tonight for left-hander Zach Britton’s start.
Exposito underwent surgery after breaking the hamate bone in his right wrist.
Also, left-hander Pedro Viola moves up from Bowie to Norfolk after pitching last night in the Eastern League All-Star Game.