O's get back in Venezuela

As the Orioles continue to upgrade their international scouting, the organization is now trying to become more of a player in a nation that has produced many Major Leaguers through the years - Venezuela.

O's Director of Player Development David Stockstill has just returned to Baltimore from a four-nation, 17-day scouting trip that took him to the Dominican, Colombia, Curacao and yes, Venezuela.

He scouted many players over four days in that country. And for the first time in about three and a half years, the Orioles have signed some Venezuelans.

Stockstill said the O's have signed about 40 international players over the last year and 11 are from Venezuela.

The Orioles have not yet released any names of the signees, but on this most recent trip, Stockstill signed three 16-year-old players, a left-handed pitcher and two outfielders.

The pitcher is 6'3" and can already hit 89 miles per hour and could grow taller. The outfielders both run 6.3 in the 60-yard dash. The O's will wait for Major League baseball to approve the contracts (which they fully expect to happen) before releasing names.

The O's have signed players from the Dominican, Japan, Colombia, Curacao and Australia in the last year. But getting back into Venezuela is a big step since that nation produces the second most foreign-born big leaguers, trailing only the Dominican.

"About five years ago we made some changes and we let go our Venezuelan staff and we pulled out of the Venezuelan summer league. It has taken us a while to re-establish ourselves there," Stockstill said.

"We are now starting to build a base there. With some of our recent signings, the Venezuelan people now realize the Orioles are back in their country and we'll start to see some of their better players now."

With those 40 signings the club has a nice base and quantity of international players. The club hopes to improve the quality of its signings as well.

"Now that we have two teams in the Dominican Summer League, and now that we have signed a number of athletes, we may actually be signing fewer (international) players, but it may cost more money per player as we go after better players."

Jesus Alfaro, Calvin Maduro and Stockstill have all scouted Venezuela. It's a nation rich in players with speed, shortstops and left-handed pitchers.

In the last 10 to 15 years, the Orioles' roster has included Venezuelans like Melvin Mora, Ramon Hernandez and Oscar Salazar. But no player from that country that was originally signed by the O's ever made it past Double-A ball.

That's a dismal record in a nation where the O's simply must do better.

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