Odrisamer Despaigne will go to spring training next week with at least one friend on the Orioles. Despaigne and fellow Cuban Henry Urrutia are friends.
They’re the same age, and both came to the U.S. for an opportunity to play in the major leagues.
Urrutia recently saw Despaigne, and was happily surprised when he found out on Thursday that Despaigne will be coming to the Orioles.
“I knew nothing about it, but I am very happy that another Cuban [has[ come to this organization, and I’m pretty sure Odrisamer [will] help the team move on to the playoffs,” Urrutia wrote in a text message.
Despaigne becomes the third Cuban on the Orioles’ 40-man roster. Outfielder Dariel Alvarez who was added to the 25-man late last August when Urrutia was returned to Norfolk, is the other.
It’s possible, but not probable that all three could be on the team’s Opening Day roster. Both Alvarez and Urrutia will compete for an outfield job. Despaigne will look for a spot in the rotation or in the bullpen.
This month marks three years since Urrutia came to the United States, and he’s made a remarkable adjustment. After not knowing English upon his arrival, Urrutia learned the language rapidly and is comfortable speaking it.
He credits his wife Suse, a Cuban who’s long lived in the U.S., for helping him. Unlike many of his fellow Cuban major leaguers, Urrutia lives in Sarasota, not Miami, where Spanish isn’t spoken nearly as often, and he’s had to learn English.
When Urrutia arrived, minor league coach Ramon Sambo was assigned as his translator, and when he made the Orioles, Rudy Arias, a longtime bullpen catcher who left the team after last season, helped him.
Einar Diaz, a coach who’s replacing Arias in the bullpen, helped Alvarez on his arrival.
This year, there’s a new rule that requires clubs to provide translators for Spanish speaking players.
Wei-Yin Chen had a translator in his four years and South Korean outfielder Hyun-soo Kim has one, too.
Now, Alvarez, Despaigne and every other Spanish speaking player on the Orioles will have one if needed.
Despaigne defected from Cuba in July 2013 around the time that Urrutia made his major league debut and Alvarez was signed by the Orioles.
He was in Europe with the Cuban national team, and left during a layover in Paris. Despaigne defected to Spain and became a resident of Mexico.
In his two years with the San Diego Padres who traded him to the Orioles on Thursday, Despaigne was 9-16 with a 4.74 ERA.
He was much better in 2014 than he was last season, going 4-7 with a 3.36 ERA. At Petco Park, his home stadium, Despaigne went 3-1 with a 1.83 ERA in eight starts. Last year, he was 5-9 with a 5.80 ERA, and at home, was 3-4 with a 4.76 ERA.
Despaigne has options remaining as do two of his competitors for the fifth starting job, Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright. With a veteran heavy bullpen, the options will come in handy for the Orioles.
Buck Showalter may want to avoid starting him at National League parks. Despaigne is just 2-for-54 (.037) as a hitter.
It will be interesting to see how Chen, who dislikes hitting, does with the Miami Marlins. In his four seasons with the Orioles, Chen had just six at-bats without a hit.
If the Orioles end up signing Yovani Gallardo, they’ll add one of baseball’s best hitting pitchers. Gallardo has a lifetime .198 average with 12 home runs. In 2010 with Milwaukee, he hit ..254 with four home runs and 10 RBIs.
Astute Orioles fans will remember Gallardo’s game-ending double against them at Miller Park on May 27. Manager Ron Roenicke used Gallardo as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning, and his double off T.J. McFarland scored Mark Reynolds with the running run.
Ubaldo Jimenez is the most experienced hitter among the starters. He has just a .117 batting average, but last year went 2-for-8 and drove in two runs.
Kevin Gausman, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman are a combined 0-for-25 in their major league careers.
The best hitter on the staff is Zach Britton, who was 5-for-8 (.625) in 2011. Britton, who has the last home run hit by an Orioles pitcher, hasn’t had an at-bat since then, and won’t be used as a pinch hitter.
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