Urrutia focused on improving his game every day
DH looks to build on his experience from last year as he competes for roster spot
SARASOTA, Fla. -- There was someone missing on Wednesday as the Orioles took the field for their first full-squad workout, and by the time the players had finished stretching and split up into groups there was no question about it: Henry Urrutia was nowhere to be found.
He ended up out there, after the stomach issue had passed and outfield coach Wayne Kirby went to look for him. But being a no-show without telling someone first is a mistake Urrutia won't make again.
"Henry's got to make sure he knows that if he's not going to be on the field, he needs to let somebody know, because he got the wrath of Kirb," manager Buck Showalter said. "But you know what hit me about that, instead of flying off the handle, is this is his first camp. We forget, last year at this time [he wasn't even in the country.] So, [I'll] give him a mulligan."
Urrutia has had a lot to adjust to since arriving in the United States on Feb. 27, 2013, after defecting from Cuba and living in Haiti in the interim. He officially arrived at Ed Smith Stadium on March 6, having last played in a game in 2010, and four-plus months later was promoted to the big leagues. It was mostly out of necessity, and he was optioned back to Triple-A about a month later, earning a September callup and finishing his year with a solid Arizona Fall League campaign.
"Now that I'm accustomed and more comfortable in understanding how everything is, I'm willing to do everything it takes and work hard to make the team," Urrutia said with teammate Julio Borbon serving as translator. "That's my main goal.
"[The experience of last year] is something that I feel comfortable with now. And I'm able to apply it here to be able to have success, to do things the right way and how they are expected to be done here."
Urrutia is competing for a roster spot and is the team's leading internal candidate -- provided the Orioles don't make an outside acquisition -- as the left-handed half of what could be a designated-hitter platoon.
"He hasn't really failed at anything here yet. If you really look at it as far as hitting, he's done pretty well at it at every stop," Showalter said of Urrutia, who turned 27 earlier this month. "He's kind of grasped all the other parts of the game -- baserunning and defense. He's worked hard at that. He's got his priorities there. He's not a guy [who] I look at the age and see there's the experience. I think there's some interesting upside to Henry."
Urrutia, who batted .377 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 18 games for the Surprise Saguaros in the AFL, often stayed after to finish up workouts in the gym or do extra fielding. The focus is on getting bigger and stronger to add more of a power component at the plate and to hold his own defensively, which has been an area of weakness.
"Now that I'm back here, I see myself as a guy that needs to improve in every aspect," Urrutia said. "To stick with this club, and be able to go as far as they want to go, I need to get better at everything in every aspect. And that's what I'm going to come in here and do every day."
"You can see it -- Henry likes baseball," Showalter said. "He likes being out here and engaged. He likes being a part of the whole picture. He'd stay here all day if you let him. But I think that car gets him out of the parking lot, his Camaro. [It's] black and orange."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.