Ori has big shoes to fill at first base for Revs

York Revolution manager Andy Etchebarren knew he had some big shoes to fill when he found out first baseman Ian Bladergroen would not return to the Revs this season.

Bladergroen retired after playing in 130 games at first base for York in 2010. He was solid offensively, hitting .280 with 17 homers and 86 RBIs. But it was his defense that really impressed Etchebarren.

“I knew how many errors (Bladergroen) saved from us from committing last year with throws from the infielders,” Etchebarren said. “So, I knew I had to replace him with a good defensive first baseman.”

Etchebarren feels confident he has found just that in 6-foot, 4-inch Mark Ori.

“Ori is a 90- to 95-percent fielding percentage guy for his career. That’s pretty high,” Etchebarren said.

The Northwestern University graduate has also surprised Etchebarren at the plate so far in spring training. Ori has arguably been York’s hottest hitter in the spring. Through Tuesday, Ori has batted 7-of-18 (.389) in five exhibition games, with a home run, six RBIs and five runs scored. He also has two doubles and a triple.

“I’m surprised by his power a little bit,” Etchebarren said. “He’s hit a home run and two off the wall. Just looking at his numbers, he’s always been a pretty good hitter and he’s a doubles guy.”

Ori, 27, has played at first base his entire career, and he credits part of his solid defensive skills from playing ice hockey with his brothers. That sport has helped with his lateral movement.

Ori’s two older brothers were college ice hockey players, including Joe, who recently retired after playing professionally in Germany. Joe also spent time playing professionally in the United States in the East Coast Hockey League and Central Hockey League.

“I played hockey, too. And it’s helped. But I feel like every sport I’ve played has helped me in some way,” Ori said.

While his older brothers pursued ice hockey careers, Ori eventually settled on baseball because “it was my first love.”

In addition to baseball, Ori was also a highly-recruited high school football player at wide receiver, turning down offers from Notre Dame and “some other Big Ten schools.”

“Baseball was the sport I loved. I had only started playing football in high school. Looking back, I’m glad I made the choice because I’d be all beat up by now if I stuck with (football),” Ori quipped.

The left-handed hitter played three years at Northwestern before being drafted by the Houston Astros in 2005. A career .280 hitter, Ori was released by Houston at the end of last season after playing in 113 games for Class A Lancaster (Calif.), where he batted .284 with 52 RBIs and four homers.

While Ori is penciled in as York’s opening-day first baseman, Etchebarren said Jason Botts might also see time there.

“Botts has surprised me. He’s played pretty good there. I think we’ll be OK either way,” he said.

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News & Notes from Day 9 of Spring Training

Pitcher Chris Cody is likely in the running to fill out the starting rotation for the York Revolution.

But he didn’t do anything to help his cause on Tuesday when he started at Lancaster. After throwing a perfect first inning, Cody gave up five runs on four hits to the Barnstormers in the second inning. Despite the performance, Revs manager Andy Etchebarren said he isn’t discouraged in Cody’s ability.

“It’s still early. His breaking ball wasn’t sharp today. I’m sure he’s gonna be fine. If you look at his numbers, he’s got a minor league 3.03 ERA, so he’s gonna pitch good. I’m not worried about him at all. He just needs to get work in.”

Lancaster went on to win the contest, 9-4. The Barnstormers tacked on a run in the third inning off of pitcher Shaun Garceau, a run in the fifth inning off of pitcher Jason Richardson, and two runs in the sixth inning off of pitcher Chad Thall.

Revs relievers Ronnie Morales, Sean Stidfole, Mike DeMark and R.J. Rodriguez each pitched a scoreless inning.

At the plate, York had seven players get a hit, including outfielder Chris Walker (2-for-5, double) and firstbaseman Mark Ori (2-for-4, RBI, run scored).

The Revs will play their final exhibition game of spring training on Wednesday when they will host the Road Warriors at Sovereign Bank Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Arrival: Outfielder James Shanks was at the game on Tuesday, but was not suited up to play. Etchebarren said after the game that Shanks will need a few days of practice and likely won’t play this weekend.

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News & Notes from Day 8 of Spring Training

Before Monday, spring training games for the York Revolution usually lasted seven or eight innings.

But with spring training winding down, and Revs manager Andy Etchebarren wanting to get some of his pitchers live action, the Revs and the Road Warriors agreed to play 11 innings on Monday at Sovereign Bank Stadium.

Had the game ended after the top of the ninth inning, York would have won, 5-2. But with the extra innings, the Road Warriors came back from a 7-5 deficit to win, 8-7.

On top of the unusual extended game, Revs pitcher Celson Polanco also threw an inning for the Road Warriors, allowing a run on two hits with two strikeouts.

Including Polanco, York had seven pitchers see action on Monday. Reymond Cruz got the start and pitched two innings, allowing a run on three hits with one strikeout.

Kevin Angelle rebounded from his poor showing on Saturday by tossing two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. Jeremy Lewis then pitched the fifth and sixth innings, allowing a hit and striking out one. Jon Ellis pitched the seventh and eighth innings, giving up a run and three hits while striking out one.

Mike Demark pitched the ninth inning, giving up a hit and striking out one. Sean Stidfole struggled in the tenth inning, allowing three runs on four hits with one strikeout.

Closer R.J. Rodriguez also struggled on the mound in the eleventh inning, giving up three hits, including a go-ahead three-run home run to former Rev Victor Gutierrez.

On the offensive side, the Revs were led by Mark Ori (2-for-5, double, triple, RBI), Scott Grimes (2-for-5, home run), Jason Botts (3-for-5, RBI, run), and Van Pope (2-for-5, double, RBI).

York will continue its exhibition schedule Tuesday at Lancaster, with the first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. The Revs will then return home Wednesday  for their final exhibition game of spring training against the Road Warriors at 6:30 p.m.

Signing: York signed 24-year-old infielder Juan Martinez, who will provide some depth to the infield after shortstop Andy Gonzalez signed with an affiliated club over the weekend. Martinez, who is the younger brother of Revs catcher Octavio Martinez, is expected to arrive in York by Wednesday.

Arrivals: Outfielder James Shanks and relief pitcher Scott Rice should be in York by Tuesday. Shanks will isn’t expected to play in the first couple regular season games this weekend, Etchebarren said.

Rice, though, is expected to practice Tuesday and might pitch in the exhibition game against the Road Warriors on Wednesday. So, there’s a chance he could be ready for opening day on Friday.

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