CLEVELAND - Two days after Hideo Nomo dealt the Orioles their first no-hitter in 10 years, vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift reflected on what might have been had the club been able to finalize a contract with the then-free agent pitcher two years ago.
"We had a deal in principal," recalled Thrift. "You didn't know it, but we got one past you."
The Orioles had negotiated a one-year framework for about $1 millon with Nomo's agent, Don Nomura, before the Detroit Tigers named Phil Garner manager. Nomo had enjoyed playing under Garner with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he had gone 12-8 for a losing club.
"He liked playing for Garner and was influenced by him going to Detroit," Thrift related before last night's series opener against the Cleveland Indians. "We thought we had him."
The Orioles took another shot at Nomo last off-season, but lost out to the Red Sox for less sentimental reasons. Desperate to fill out a starting rotation for what they perceived as a contending club, the Red Sox signed Nomo to a one-year, $4.5 million deal.
The Orioles, involved in talks for free agent Pat Hentgen, chose not to challenge the Red Sox's bid. "We actually never heard back from them," Thrift recalled.
Making his Red Sox debut, Nomo fed the Orioles their first no-hitter since Wilson Alvarez performed the feat at Memorial Stadium in August 1991.
As noted by Comcast broadcaster and left-handed wit Mike Flanagan, Nomo also became one of few pitchers to throw no-hitters in two centuries, as he no-hit the Colorado Rockies with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 17, 1996.
Nomo joined Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Jim Bunning and Cy Young as one of four pitchers to throw no-hitters in both leagues.
Waiting on Mills
The Orioles apparently won't be summoning rehabilitating reliever Alan Mills from their Sarasota minor-league complex anytime soon. Mills pitched in an intrasquad game earlier this week with his fastball maxing out at 85 miles per hour.
"Eighty-eight is batting practice for a right-handed pitcher," said Thrift, noting that the club is waiting for Mills to hit 90.
"We're going to let the process take its course," said manager Mike Hargrove. "We're not in a rush to short-circuit something like that."
Mills has not pitched since undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair his right labrum last Sept. 15. He made three appearances in spring training, but complained of residual weakness in the shoulder and never pitched on consecutive days.
If Orioles center fielder Melvin Mora seems distracted, he's got five pretty good reasons.
Mora's wife, Gisel, is pregnant with quintuplets - which was verified while the Orioles were in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for spring training. Until then, the couple thought they were expecting twins.
"The doctor said, `Whoever told you it was twins was lying,' " he said. "We can hear the heartbeats - a lot of heartbeats."
Gisel is 11 weeks along in her pregnancy, which is too early to determine the sex of each baby. Mora said the doctor will induce labor after seven months rather than let her go full term. She's already been confined to bed.
"The doctor says all five hearts are strong, which is good news. I've been worried," he said.
Gisel's family made the trip from New York yesterday to help take care of her in Baltimore, which also brought comfort to Mora.
"She's going to be fine," Mora said, "but it's hard for me now, especially with my situation, having to travel a lot. But I have to be strong mentally."
The couple already has a daughter, Tatiana, and Mora said his wife wasn't taking fertility drugs. He said a doctor in Venezuela, where they live, had prescribed "vitamins" for them.
"Medicine down there is a lot stronger than it is here," he said.
As for the possibility of adding five children to their household, Mora said, "I'm going to need a lot of help."
The New York media took delight in Mike Mussina's 7 2/3 shutout innings in his victorious Thursday debut for the New York Yankees against the Kansas City Royals.
The New York Post splashed the back-page headline "Moose Eggs." Yankees manager Joe Torre made the obvious comparisons between the Bronx and Baltimore and the significance of Mussina's innings. With the Orioles, Mussina's seventh- and eighth-inning exits became a source of front-office irritation.
"The difference between here and in Baltimore is that when he gives us his innings, we don't have to push him beyond to make sure we win that day. That's important psychologically as well as physically."
Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.