On the first pitch he ever saw in the Eastern League last April, Manny Machado homered off a Harrisburg pitcher. Last night, on the first pitch he ever saw playing at Bowie’s Prince George’s Stadium, Henry Urrutia homered off a Harrisburg pitcher.
Now, that was Machado’s first game - the 2012 Double-A season opener - and Urrutia was playing his sixth game, but first at home.
Still, it was an impressive home debut last night for the 26-year-old Cuban outfielder the Orioles signed to a bonus of $778,500 last July. He went 2-for-3 with the solo homer over the 405-foot sign in center field and an RBI single in Bowie’s 3-1 over Harrisburg.
A week ago, Urrutia made his much-anticipated debut for an O’s affiliate when he joined the Baysox on a road trip. Now, after six games, he is batting .364 (8-for-22) with a double, two homers, seven RBIs, a .682 slugging percentage and 1.122 OPS. He has homered in two of his last three Baysox games.
So what is Bowie manager Gary Kendall’s early impressions of Urrutia?
“Good-looking player with a lot of tools,” Kendall said. “He has certainly shown some power and the ability to hit left-handed pitching. Stays on the ball well and has been getting his hits. He’s been solid in right field. He’s looked real good so far.”
After not playing regularly since 2010, Urrutia started to knock some of the rust off during spring training in Sarasota, Fla. Kendall hasn’t seen any signs of rust so far.
“I really didn’t even notice that in Florida,” Kendall said. “I know we were going slow with him then, but since he’s been here he’s done everything well on the basepaths and in the field. His decision-making has been real good. We do know there was that gap.
“He hasn’t looked frustrated, he hasn’t looked overmatched and he just fits in nicely. He’s a good player that brings a lot to the table.”
During an interview before Friday’s game in Bowie, Urrutia said a couple of times how thankful he was to the Orioles for giving him a chance to play pro ball in the United States.
“I am very grateful that the organization has done such a good job taking care of me,” Urrutia said through Bowie catcher Luis Martinez, who served as an interpreter. “I am very happy and just feel at home here, like a family. The Orioles gave me the opportunity to play in the States and that is all I ever wanted to do. Very grateful and happy to be here.”
It’s only been a few games, but so far how does baseball here compare to baseball in Cuba?
“Over there, all they do and all they know is baseball,” Urrutia said. “Coming here, it’s a blessing. It is more advanced and better baseball. I want to learn the lifestyle here and the way baseball is played here. I have the talent to play here so I just want to learn and get stuff in my head to advance quicker. Very grateful for this opportunity.”