BALTIMORE – Henry Urrutia started the year in Haiti and ends it as the Orioles minor league player of the year. Urrutia won the Brooks Robinson award as the team’s top player by making a rapid adjustment to professional ball after his defection from Cuba and his rapid ascension to the Orioles
Urrutia, who batted .347 in 81 games for Bowie and Norfolk, is batting .283 in 22 games for the Orioles.
Mike Wright, who was 11-3 with a 3.26 ERA for the Baysox captured the team’s award for top pitcher. The 23-year-old Wright, who was the Orioles’ third-round selection in 2011, has also quickly moved through the organization and was recognized as the winner of the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the year.
“He said it's a long process and what he went through was hard, of course, but the ultimate was being in the big leagues as soon as he signed when he left Cuba, so that's one of the things that was more important for him," Urrutia’s translator, Rudy Arias said.
“His expectations were getting to the big leagues. He knew he was going to be playing with the best players in the world. That's what he tried to accomplish, most of all."
After nearly two years as the Orioles’ top baseball executive, Dan Duquette is pleased with how the farm system has developed. Urrutia was signed in July 2012 by Fred Ferreira, but it took until March for him to be admitted to the United States.
“He distinguished himself with his bat. And he’s met all the challenges. He got through the system very quickly. He had good on-base, good slugging and real high average. Urrutia has a chance to be a complete everyday ballplayer in the big leagues,” Duquette said.
Wright topped off his year by pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a crucial game for Norfolk.
“I feel like I definitely took a big step forward this year. It was a big learning year for me, moving up to Double-A,” Wright said.
Wright is hoping to get to the majors soon.
“I definitely feel like it’s close, but it’s still going to take a lot of hard work. There’s always new guys coming in, new guys working hard. I’m going to try this offseason to work hard and work harder than anybody and make a good impression in spring training,” Wright said.
Duquette was pleased with Wright’s progress.
“Wright had a terrific year, really came into his own this year,” Duquette said. “He’s coming and he’s coming quick and this was a nice recognition for him.”
Bowie manager Gary Kendall was named the Cal Ripken, Sr. Player Development Award winner, Dave Jennings, the Jim Russo Scout of the Year award. Frederick trainer Pat Wesley was also honored. Anthony Caronia, who played for the Keys and Delmarva was recognized with the Elrod Hendricks Minor League Community Service Award.
Kendall, a lifelong Baltimorean, who’s spent the last three seasons as Baysox manager, was rewarded for his 14 years of work in the organization. He’ll be managing in the Arizona Fall League next month.
“Sometimes you don’t know if there’s any light at the end of the tunnel. This is one of those moments where you realize how good the game has been to you,” Kendall said.
“I see our system deeper. Being here 14 years, that’s one of the things that I’ve noted.”
Jennings scouted Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Kevin Gausman and former Orioles Xavier Avery and Adam Loewen.
“Those guys make scouts look good,” Jennings said.
Both Duquette and manager Buck Showalter think the organization is coming along nicely.
“Our minor league system is making good progress,” Duquette said.
Showalter likes to read minor league reports and check on players, not only the ones who won awards.
“The good news was that there was a lot of competition for those spots,” Showalter said.