With eight O's prospects on roster, Surprise is headed to AFL championship game

The Surprise Saguaros, a team managed by Double-A Bowie's Gary Kendall and featuring eight O's minor league prospects, are headed to the Arizona Fall League's championship game Saturday.

Surprise, which also features short-season Single-A Aberdeen's Alan Mills as one of its two pitching coaches, clinched its division title with awith an 8-2 win Monday over Scottsdale. The Saguaros haven't won the AFL championship since 1995, when the it was a best-of-three series. They will face either Mesa or Salt River for the championship.

All eight O's prospects have had a hand in Surprise's success and league-best 17-10-1 record, but on the stat sheet Henry Urrutia, Michael Ohlman and Tim Berry have stood out most.

Urrutia is batting .394 with three doubles, three homers, 14 RBIs and a 1.020 OPS in 17 games. He is 9-for-18 over his last four games with six RBIs.

"He's handled pitching from the right side and left side," Kendall said from Arizona last night. "He stays in there well and has put the ball in play with authority. He has three homers and drove in a big run for us today (Monday) with a pull single through the right side on a fastball. He's been big for us in the middle of the lineup and has been a big plus.

"After each game, he's in the weight room striving to get stronger and make himself a better player. He's been taking his fly balls and ground balls on defense working to improve there."

As a taxi squad player, Ohlman has played just twice a week. In nine games, he is batting .286 with three homers, six RBIs and a 1.188 OPS.

"What has really impressed me is that Michael has really good plate discipline. He doesn't chase bad pitches and shows patience. He can drive the ball the other way and he continues to grow. This guy is on the upswing," Kendall said.

"There are some things he wants to work on with his defense (at catcher) with his release, his blocking skills and game calling. He's got some arm strength and is durable. Rich Gedman is our hitting coach and a former Red Sox catcher who has taken a liking to Michael, and they have a really good relationship."

Kendall said Ohlman has taken some ground balls at first base during batting practice to expand his versatility and has looked good there, too.

Berry is 2-0 with a 1.84 ERA in seven games. Over 14 2/3 innings, he has allowed 11 hits with three walks, 11 strikeouts and a .212 average against.

"He's been unbelievable," Kendall said. "He gets ahead of hitters and has shown a quality breaking ball and he has a great feel for his changeup. He can throw any pitch he wants for a strike right now. He keeps the ball down and he's been one of our better arms out here.

"He threw an inning and a third scoreless relief for us today (Monday). He threw 17 pitches and came in and attacked the strike zone. He came in with a two-out, bases-loaded jam and he fanned a lefty hitter and then got three outs the next inning. I really like what he has done and he works very hard."

O's pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, who is 0-1 with a 5.52 ERA in five AFL games, lines up to make the start Saturday, although no final decision has been made yet on Saturday's starter, Kendall said.

Surprise, which leads the six-team league in runs, batting average, homers and OPS, still has three games to play before Saturday's title game, which will be televised live on MLB Network at 3 p.m. eastern.

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