SARASOTA, Fla. - A strong spring training continued this afternoon at Ed Smith Stadium for Orioles outfielder Henry Urrutia. He entered today’s game in the top of the sixth, taking over in right field for Travis Snider.
Two innings later, he did something he’s never done in 58 regular-season major league at-bats or in 204 at-bats at Triple-A Norfolk last year.
And it was a blast. He hit it out to center field, driving an 0-1 pitch from Stolmy Pimentel over the wall to break a 4-4 tie and lead the Orioles to a 6-4 win over the Pirates in front of another sellout crowd watching in the bright sunshine.
“It felt amazing,” Urrutia said. “It was my best contact in the whole spring training. I was prepared to play. I just wanted to make good contact and it was a homer.”
Does he feel like power will be a bigger part of his game this year?
“I know I have the power,” he said. “Now I feel more comfortable at home plate and the power is coming. I know I am strong and just need to fix two or three details in my swing, and that’s it.
“I’ve been coming here at seven in the morning working with Scott (Coolbaugh) and the Triple-A hitting coach (Sean Berry). I’m thinking do your swing the best you can do and if I want to play in the big leagues I have to do the other stuff too. I know I can hit to everywhere but sometimes I need to prove my power.
“In Double-A in 2013, I hit seven homers, but all the homers were middle and away, just one homer to right field. In Triple-A, I hit two to right field and I know I can do that, but sometimes I try to do too much. The work is very hard, but the results are coming and I feel very happy right now for that.”
Urrutia was asked if he knew it was gone as soon as he hit the ball today.
“Oh, yeah, but I had to run. Remember what happened with Dariel (Alvarez)? I knew it. Run Henry run,” he said. “I went to the dugout and (Buck) Showalter said, ‘OK, Henry, good job.’ Don’t flip any bats or nothing like that.”
This was not his first homer for the Orioles. He hit one in spring training last year and now has two over 64 spring-training at-bats over the last two seasons.
He is now batting .364 (8-for-22) with two doubles, a homer and seven RBIs.
Urrutia was the O’s 2013 minor league Player of the Year. But the promise of that season was set back when he needed sports hernia surgery last May and missed over two months. Limited to 51 games at Triple-A, he failed to homer and posted a .623 OPS, although he hit .303 in 122 at-bats after his return. But now he is healthy and getting the results in this camp.
Urrutia feels his defense is improved, too.
“I feel like I don’t have any problem with my defense right now,” he said. “But I ask the coaches always about my work in spring training. I ask the coaches, ‘How is my work here? How do you see me in the field?’ Skip feels pretty good about my defense right now.”
With a strong camp going, the 28-year-old from Las Tunas, Cuba, is giving the Orioles something to think about with a crowded situation in their outfield.
“I know it’s very hard (to make this team). But I feel strong and healthy and good at the plate,” Urrutia said. “The thing is, do your job and don’t think about it. That is what I have in my mind.
“Last year, I was thinking too much, ‘Make the team, make the team.’ This year, I have a little more experience so when spring training is done, Showalter and the general manager have to make the decision. If I play in the big leagues, I know I’m going to (have) a great year.”