Henry Urrutia gets off to a solid start with Bowie, but there is more work to do

If you just look at the stat sheet, you can’t help but be impressed by Double-A Bowie outfielder Henry Urrutia. The Cuban defector signed by the Orioles last July is swinging a good bat for the Baysox during his first 15 games in the Orioles organization.

The 26-year-old Urrutia is batting .317 with eight doubles, two homers, 15 RBIs, a .550 slugging percentage and .929 OPS. Urrutia is 7-for-19 (.368) with runners in scoring position and has six multi-hit games.

But the Orioles realize that, after not playing much at all during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Urrutia is still a work in progress and any chance he has to move up to the Orioles will depend on his total overall game and not just his batting stats.

The 6-foot-5, 195-lb. lefty hitter didn’t play in 2011 due to a suspension after an unsuccessful attempt at defection. He was unable to join an affiliate after signing last summer.

Orioles director of player development Brian Graham explained there are aspects of Urrutia’s play where he continues to knock off rust even as his bat is going pretty well.

“We’ll see a guy that is more comfortable as an everyday player come July and August,” Graham said. “What I mean by that is there are areas he can improve, like baserunning, reacting to the ball off the bat and routes and angles in the outfield. Those are areas he needs to continue to improve and I’m sure the layoff hurt him in those areas. We’ll see a better player come July and August, even though I’m very pleased with what I see now.

“The big picture is that he is getting on a strength and conditioning program that will help. He will have enough game situations on the bases where he improve as a baserunner. Right now, his leads and reactions to the ball off the bat is not where it is going to be in a few months. In the outfield, his reactions and routes and overall play will get better as time progresses.

“Offensively he is doing a great job. But at the higher levels you have to play the whole game.”

Last weekend in a three-game series at Akron, Urrutia went 6-for-12 with four doubles and four RBIs,

For now, the Orioles seem content to let Urrutia play at the Double-A level and settle in with Bowie.

“The most important thing is that he just needs to play and get his at-bats,” Graham said. “The fact that he is competing so well at Bowie is great. I don’t think there is any reason to move him anywhere. He just needs to stay and continue to get his at-bats and the game experience.”

We had heard that the Orioles would play Urrutia at both corner outfield positions, but so far he has made just one start in left field and 14 in right.

But that has also been a part of the long-range plan.

“He takes live balls in left off the bat every single day in BP,” Graham said. “He works some there. He just feels more comfortable in right field and for the time being we just need to let him play and get his at-bats,” Graham said.

The Baysox fell to 13-18 with last night’s 5-1 loss to Erie and have lost four in a row. They play the second game of a seven-game homestand tonight at Prince George’s Stadium. Kevin Gausman is expected to make his next start tomorrow night for the Baysox, who will be home through next Thursday.

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