Over the last five years, the Orioles have sent eight players to the All-Star Futures Game, which will be played today at 2 p.m. at Citi Field in New York.
It has become a prestigious event featuring some of the top young prospects in the sport in a game pitting the U.S against the world.
The Orioles are one of six major league organizations that will have three players on the field today (nine have just one) in Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia, Venezuelan pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and first baseman Christian Walker, their fourth-round pick from last year out of the University of South Carolina.
Urrutia will start in right field batting fifth for the World team this afternoon and Rodriguez is scheduled to be the sixth pitcher used by the World team. while Walker will be a reserve for the U.S. squad.
“That is terrific and two of them are on the World team from the international market,” Orioles vice president Dan Duquette said. “Eduardo Rodriguez is having a good year and just got moved up to Double-A. He’s coming along nicely. Henry Urrutia is having an excellent season, leading the Eastern League in hitting and now he’s up at Triple-A.
“We got a bonus pick when Christian Walker was added to the team. Christian is having an excellent year in A ball. He did well at Delmarva and he’s shown good power playing first base for Frederick.”
Duquette clearly takes some pride in the O’s getting three players into this game.
“This shows good progress in the organization,” he said. “We’re active in the international markets and our player development is doing a good job. These players get to represent the Orioles on the big stage of the Futures Game.
“Having three players in the Futures Game and four in the All-Star Game is a good sign for the Orioles and we’re proud of our guys.”
In 67 games this season between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, the 26-year-old Urrutia is batting .365 with 20 doubles, seven homers, 43 RBIs and a .958 OPS. He has now played 15 games with Norfolk, batting .367 and has gone 10-for-17 over his last four games.
The 20-year-old Rodriguez is 6-5 with an ERA of 3.08 in 16 starts between Single-A Frederick and Bowie. He was just recently moved to Double-A and is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA for the Baysox.
The 22-year-old Walker began this year with Single-A Delmarva and then was promoted to Frederick. Over 86 games he is batting .311 with 11 homers, 55 RBIs and an OPS of .848. He hit three homers in 31 games with Delmarva and has hit eight in 55 games with Frederick.
Orioles in the Futures Game the last five years:
2008: Jake Arrieta (U.S)
2009: Brian Matusz (U.S.), Chris Tillman (U.S.)
2010: Zach Britton (U.S.)
2011: Manny Machado (U.S.), Jonathan Schoop (World)
2012: Manny Machado (U.S.), Dylan Bundy (U.S.)
O’s manager Buck Showalter talked about the trio playing in the Futures Game yesterday.
“When I first got here, one of the things I did was go through the media guide to see how many players we had from Venezuela,” Showalter said. “I remember looking at this Eduardo Rodriguez guy who was 17 or 18 and kind of kept my eye on him since then.
“Hank, of course, has done well this year and deserves to go, and Christian has done a nice job this year. You hit third or fourth in the lineup with a national championship contender in the Southeastern Conference you have to figure there is some pedigree there.”
The O’s had Rodriguez come to major league spring training this year as a spring invitee, which was impressive for a kid coming off a 2012 season in which he pitched at Delmarva. Some of the O’s showed the kid the ropes and he bonded with pitchers like Miguel Gonzalez and Pedro Strop while also getting some one-on-one coaching from O’s bullpen coach Bill Castro.
A comment Walker made reflects how important it is and for a young player to get selected for the Futures Game.
“This has got to be the biggest honor in my baseball career up to now. I couldn’t be more pleased and it’s going to be a great opportunity,” Walker said in an interview on the Keys radio network.