O's trade rabbit-turf warning track for crushed stone


In an ever-changing Baltimore Orioles landscape, one of the most notable changes that will meet the eye at the April 5 home opener is the land itself, a new warning track at Camden Yards. The synthetic rubber track will be replaced by a crushed stone material, with ground up brick blended in to approximate the color of the brick throughout the stadium. This was reported by Roch Kubatko on MASNSports.com.

A simple, yet definitely not so simple, thing like that is one of the most welcome pieces of news in a long time. On the surface of it, fewer long drives will bounce too high on the warning track and become ground rule doubles, holding runners at third and costing the Orioles a run. Thirty thousand square feet of Dura Trax, made by Natural Sand Company of Slippery Rock, Pa., will be installed by The Motz Company of Cincinnati. Three hundred tons of it.

Let’s not ignore the fact that opposing teams will also be helped by the greater number of balls staying in the park, however many there are. Let’s also not ignore the possibility that outfielders will be able to play more balls off the wall and throw runners out on the bases. It is still a very interesting, welcome development.

Another development of that variety was the arrival in Sarasota of Henry Urrutia (right, meeting the media last week),  the 6-3, 180-pound drink of water whom the Orioles signed last July.  International scouting director Fred Ferreira spotted him in 2009 playing for Cuba, where he’d been playing for four years, but the Cuban team suspended him for trying to defect. He has not played since 2010, but Ferreira and Buck Showalter had kept an eye on him. His visa issues just recently cleared up.

Here, courtesy again of MASNSports.com, is what one observer says. It’s reason for optimism and whets the appetite to see him play. There have been no accounts of his getting in a game since this news, but Buck will get him on the field sooner or later. Incidentally, word has it the pronunciation is oo-roo-tee-a.

Someone whose name should not be a problem by now is Ryan Flaherty, whose bid for one of Showalter’s bench spots has strengthened recently. His 3-run home run in the bottom of the 9th gave the Orioles an 11-10 win over Boston Thursday, which you know. But it took watching the game to see the value in the way he did it. Batting with two outs, down 10-8, he ran the count full and then pounced on a low, inside pitch, any hitter’s dream, hitting it out a few feet fair down the right field line, into a wind. It was a professional job of hitting in the clutch, and Flaherty also homered in Sunday’s loss to the Pirates.

The Orioles visit Bradenton to play the Pirates again today – yet one more chance to root against a Pittsburgh team – before having Tuesday off.

(Photo courtesy: Baltimore Orioles)

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