Urrutia’s bat stays hot in Arizona and other winter ball notes

Henry Urrutia had another strong game for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League on Saturday, going 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs.

The Orioles’ 2013 minor league Player of the Year is batting .410 in 16 AFL games with three doubles, three homers and 13 RBIs. Urrutia is slugging .607 with an OPS of 1.069 and is batting over .400 against both left (.412) and right-handed pitchers (.409).

Over his last three games, Urrutia is 8-for-13 with a homer, three runs and five RBIs.

Urrutia has shown some pop with six extra-base hits in 61 AFL at-bats after he had just one in 58 at-bats in the majors during 2013.

Fans have wondered if he is pulling the ball in Arizona and, while that part of his game is still a work in progress, O’s director of player development Brian Graham told me recently he thinks that will come for the 26-year-old Cuban outfielder.

“All good hitters learn to pull the ball with experience,” Graham said. “I have absolutely no concerns that he’ll pull the ball naturally. When you pull pitches, it is learning how to hit in counts versus certain pitches in game situations and then you have to get the pitch to pull.

“Anyone concerned about Urrutia not pulling the ball needs to be patient. Driving the ball and hitting home runs is the last part of the puzzle for good hitters. He could be two years away from pulling the ball and hitting home runs. But as long as he is getting on base and hitting line drives all over the field, we are perfectly fine with that.”

A taxi squad player that plays just twice a week, Michael Ohlman has shown good pop in Arizona. He homered Saturday and six of his his eight AFL hits are extra-base hits. In 28 at-bats for Surprise, Ohlman is hitting .286 with three homers, six RBIs, a .714 slugging percentage and 1.189 OPS.

In other O’s winter ball notes:

* Caleb Joseph, after going 0-for-7 in his past two games in Venezuela, is batting .220 with a homer and eight RBIs over 11 games. He has made eight starts at first base and three in the outfield.

* Infielder Tucker Nathans is playing for the Perth Heat in Australia and is batting .361 with four doubles, no homers and five RBIs in eight games.

* Continuing to work on his transition to a knuckleball pitcher, right-hander Eddie Gamboa is 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in four starts in Mexico. In 26 innings, he has walked five and fanned 13. Gamboa threw 6 1/3 shutout innings Wednesday in his last start.

* Lefty reliever Chris Jones, just added to the O’s 40-man roster this week, is 0-0 with an ERA of 4.91 in 12 games in Venezuela. Jones, who held left-handed batters to an average of just .196 this season at Triple-A Norfolk, has given up eight hits (all singles) in 12 at-bats so far in winter ball against lefty hitters.

* O’s lefty T.J. McFarland is off to a good start in Venezuela. He is 1-0 with an ERA of 1.00 in four games. Over 18 innings he has allowed 11 hits with five walks, seven strikeouts and a .169 average against. In a start on Tuesday, McFarland went 5 2/3, allowing three hits and one run on 81 pitches.

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