Mora isn't sitting well with O's reserve role

Regular past 2 years doesn't want to watch

March 26, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

VERO BEACH, Fla. - With the rest of his teammates still getting dressed, Melvin Mora was the first Oriole on the field for yesterday's exhibition game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Mora sat in the outfield grass at Holman Stadium, explaining why it will be tough accepting his new role. Baseball teams can only start nine players in the field, and Mora is essentially the Orioles' 10th man.

With newly acquired Chris Singleton in center field, and Mike Bordick back healthy at shortstop, the Orioles don't expect Mora to play an everyday role. Manager Mike Hargrove said Mora will probably make about three to five starts per week.

"That's not enough for me," Mora said. "I'm not the type of player who sits in the dugout watching people play. If I'm watching from the dugout, that's going to bother me."

Mora entered last season as the Orioles' starting center fielder after finishing the 2000 season as their everyday shortstop. When Bordick went down with a shoulder injury last season, Mora moved back to shortstop.

It was an eventful year for Mora, whose wife, Gisel, gave birth to quintuplets in July. With his mind on his family's health, Mora played 128 games and saw his average dip to .250, 18 points below his career mark.

The Orioles essentially relegated Mora to a bench role in January, when they acquired Singleton from the Chicago White Sox. Even though the White Sox used the left-handed-hitting Singleton primarily against right-handed pitchers, the Orioles intend to use him in an everyday role.

"I'm glad Melvin wants to play every day," Hargrove said. "He should want to play every day, and Melvin's going to play a lot. If somebody gets hurt, he's going to play every day.

"But going into it, with the everyday club that we have, Melvin will play anywhere from three to five times per week."

The Orioles like Mora's ability to play multiple positions well, but they feel they're a better club with Singleton shouldering most of the load in center field and Bordick shouldering most of it at shortstop.

Mora is sure to spell Bordick, 36, once or twice a week as Bordick tries to rebuild strength in his surgically repaired right shoulder. Singleton has been out since March 15 with a strained Achilles' tendon, but the Orioles are hoping to have him back in the lineup for Friday's exhibition game at Atlanta.

Opening Day is Monday, and Mora figures to start the year on the bench.

"I'm pretty excited because it's a different year from last year," Mora said. "We've got a pretty good thing going. But for two years, I've been a regular. I can't watch people play."

Mora played all nine innings yesterday at shortstop, hitting a two-run homer in the fifth inning, as the Orioles won for the 15th time in 17 exhibition games. He leads the Orioles with four home runs this spring despite missing the first 14 games while recovering from a broken left ring finger.

The finger is fully healed, Mora said, but his left wrist is still sore from wearing the cast after breaking the finger playing winter ball in Venezuela.

"I cannot be in the dugout and go pinch hit because [the wrist is] cold," Mora said. "I need to do some running or something to make it warm."

Mora, 30, has other reasons he'd rather do more than pinch hit. He is making $350,000 and will be eligible for arbitration after the season for the first time. With all those kids at home, he has multiple reasons he'd like to see his numbers increase.

"This is my arbitration year," Mora said. "I don't want to sit in the dugout. ... Nothing personal, but on a team like the Yankees I can be a backup. But here, it'd be different.

"If I do my job, why should I be in the dugout? It's not my decision. Whatever they want me to do, I'll do."

Hargrove knows it won't be easy keeping a player in Mora's position happy.

"It'll depend a lot on the professionalism of the person," Hargrove said. "You just have to trust that they understand the situation. And if they don't trust the situation, then it just comes down to the fact that that's the way it is, and they can act as grown men that just deal with it."

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