After a slow start, Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia is giving International League pitching the same rough treatment that he dished out in the Eastern League.
Urrutia went 5-for-5 last night for Triple-A Norfolk to raise his average to .365 in 13 games - the same average he posted in 52 games at Double-A Bowie.
Overall, he's hitting .365/.429/.536 with 20 doubles, one triple, seven homers, 42 RBIs, 44 runs scored, 28 walks and 42 strikeouts in 252 minor league at-bats. His defense has improved, but there's nothing wrong with projecting him as a left-handed designated hitter.
It was supposed to be Wilson Betemit's role, but he's not close to being ready to come off the disabled list. Chris Dickerson may end up on it after injuring his left shoulder yesterday in batting practice.
If that happens, and we'll know more if he undergoes an MRI on Friday, will the Orioles choose Urrutia as his replacement?
Urrutia is supposed to play for the World Team in the Futures Game. I'm sure the Orioles would like to showcase him. But could they have bigger plans for him?
It's always possible that they decide to select his contract from Norfolk after the break. Heck, they could keep him down there and make the move later in the summer. The only certainty is, as long as Hammerin' Hank stays healthy, he's going to play in the majors this season.
That's been the plan of executive vice president Dan Duquette, who laid it out for reporters the day Urrutia had his press conference at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. In Duquette's mind, it's always been a matter of when, not if.
Manager Buck Showalter may have been a harder sell back then, but not anymore.
The Orioles have other options if Dickerson is sidelined, including Alex Liddi, who drove in five runs last night. But Urrutia is knocking on the door.
When do the Orioles answer it?
The Orioles improved to 41-20 last night when scoring four runs or more and 33-12 when they outhit their opponents.
The seven walks were a season high. They drew six walks in four other games, the last on April 30 in Seattle.
One of the highlights last night was seeing Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson sitting outside one of the suites at Camden Yards. His image appeared on the video board in center field between innings, which brought a loud ovation from fans. He looks terrific, much healthier than during his appearances last summer.
"There's always a special significance," Showalter said. "I stopped whatever I was doing and watched. Brooks is one of the treasures of baseball, let alone the Orioles. It's so easy to smile.
"I remember I was looking for a home and was driving through his area. It was too far from here. But he was walking down the street with his wife and it was like I had known him for 100 years. We stopped and talked and he told me all the things ... not what we needed to do. Then it started raining. His wife was trying to get him to go inside and he said, 'No, I'm talking to the manager of the Orioles. We can stay out here and get wet.'
"He's special. We're so lucky to have him show up here. To think that Brooks Robinson thought the most important thing today was to come and watch us play, that's pretty cool. If we had played bad tonight, that would have been a really tough thing to live with."
Update: Urrutia is in Norfolk's lineup today playing left field, so he won't be recalled.