Tonight, utility man Mora back on


His finger, calf mended, spring debut expected

March 14, 2002|By Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko | Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - For Orioles utility man Melvin Mora, the wait finally ends tonight.

Mora, who has been sidelined all spring with a broken left ring finger and strained left calf, is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut when the Orioles play the Montreal Expos in Jupiter.

The Orioles plan to let Mora have one at-bat, to test his finger, before having him play for an extended period.

"I feel pretty close [to 100 percent]," Mora said yesterday, with ice still wrapped around his left hand. "I just need four at-bats to get ready [for the season]. That's it."

Mora had a career-high 436 at-bats last year, playing 88 games in center field and 43 games at shortstop. He hit .250 with seven home runs and 48 RBIs.

After the season, Mora returned to his native Venezuela, where he broke his finger playing winter ball. The Orioles traded for center fielder Chris Singleton, moving Mora back into the utility role.

DH rotation

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said he plans to rotate five players through the designated hitter role this season: David Segui, Jeff Conine, Jay Gibbons, Marty Cordova and Tony Batista.

Segui, Conine, Gibbons and Cordova will handle most of the DH duties.

"It'll be one of those four pretty much every day," Hargrove said. "And we'll throw Batista in there."

Marshall's plan

When the Minnesota Twins began calling up players from their Double-A affiliate and putting them on the 40-man roster, reliever Lee Marshall knew his days in the organization were numbered.

"When they started doing that, with guys who never pitched in Triple-A, mathematical-wise it didn't add up," he said.

When he heard rumors that the Twins might be contracted by Major League Baseball, he wondered if their days were numbered, too.

Such uncertainty made it easier for Marshall, 25, to sign with the Orioles on Nov. 3 as a six-year minor-league free agent. He's involved in his first spring camp, knowing the chances of making the club are slim but at least getting a long-awaited look.

Marshall barely registered on the Twins' radar last season despite posting a 2.24 ERA with 13 saves at Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Edmonton. He didn't allow a run in nine straight games with Edmonton, lowering his ERA to 0.83 on June 21. Surprise contenders in the American League Central, the Twins showed little interest in him.

"I was looking to get out of there," he said. "They didn't need someone in my role. They have a pretty good bullpen already. They've got some older guys in there."

Marshall further impressed the Orioles in the Dominican Winter League by going 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA and seven saves in 17 games. He hadn't allowed a run in 2 1/3 innings this spring heading into yesterday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I'm just here enjoying it, working out, having a good time," he said. "I'm doing the best I can do. You never know with baseball. You never know if there's going to be a job opening up."

Or if a team like the Twins might close down.

"I know they're not going to get rid of the Orioles," he said, `so that's a good thing."

Around the horn

Jason Johnson, who missed his last Grapefruit League start with a cracked fingernail, will start tonight's game against the Expos. He is scheduled to pitch five innings, with Sidney Ponson scheduled to pitch the final four. ... With outfield prospect Luis Matos out with a broken bone in his left hand and Tim Raines Jr. getting sent to Double-A Bowie, Luis Garcia got the chance to start yesterday's game in center field. Garcia, who signed as a sixth-year free agent, continued to look impressive on defense and went 1-for-4, leaving his spring average at .333. ... Pitcher John Parrish will leave the club on Monday, with surgery scheduled on March 22 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Parrish has been walking around without crutches or a brace. Surgery was delayed while the club waited for the swelling to ease.

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