Cordova's return puts Mora on move

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Fill-in left fielder could go to shortstop, center, right

Singleton revisits Chicago

April 11, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The addition of outfielder Marty Cordova to the Orioles' active roster, which is expected to come tomorrow when he's eligible to come off the disabled list, will force manager Mike Hargrove to find playing time for Melvin Mora beyond left field.

"I've been thinking about how to do that," he said.

Mora went into the series batting .235, the second-highest average on the club but a 73-point dip after going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts during Sunday's loss to the Boston Red Sox. Last night he was 0-for-2 with two walks. He's started all seven games in left after Cordova went on the DL with a strained quadriceps muscle.

Mora could get some starts in center field as a replacement for Chris Singleton, who is batting .107. He also could spell Jay Gibbons in right field and Mike Bordick at shortstop.

"There are logical spots where Melvin could play," Hargrove said. "It depends how those people are going at that time and how Melvin's playing at that time."

Hargrove also indicated that Calvin Maduro wouldn't miss a turn in the rotation after Tuesday's rainout. Hargrove said he'll push back each starter, with Maduro facing the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

Maduro turned in the shortest outing of any Orioles starter on Sunday, throwing 70 pitches in four innings and leaving with the Red Sox ahead 4-1. It was his first start since going on the DL with a strained forearm muscle.

"I don't want to classify it as a good outing because he got a loss," Hargrove said, "but it was an outing that was good in the fact that he got through it without reinjuring himself."

Homecoming for Singleton

Singleton will return to Comiskey Park this weekend with an average far below his career .283 mark.

"I start slow every year," he said.

At least he'll receive plenty of at-bats while trying to get untracked. His playing time was sporadic last year with the Chicago White Sox.

"It's got a lot of positives about it," he said. "I can keep going out there and get in a groove. Things always work out. I don't see why it shouldn't this time."

The series opener tomorrow night will represent Singleton's first game in Chicago since coming to the Orioles in a Jan. 29 trade for minor-leaguer Willie Harris.

"I'm looking forward to seeing all my teammates and friends. It'll be nice to see everybody," he said. "I think it'll be weird being on the other side of the field."

Bullish bullpen

The Orioles went into last night's 3-2 loss hoping that their anemic offense would catch up with a pitching staff that ranked second in the American League with a 3.00 ERA.

The bullpen, filled with its many uncertainties coming into the season, hasn't allowed a run in the past six games covering 18 innings, including 3 2/3 last night. That included three shutout innings from Rick Bauer, who was optioned to Triple-A Rochester last weekend.

The bullpen had stranded all eight inherited runners until Chris Brock allowed a run-scoring single last night to Tampa Bay's Bobby Smith in the sixth inning.

The only reliever to be scored upon through six games was rookie Rodrigo Lopez, 26, who gave up a two-run homer to New York's Derek Jeter on Opening Day after retiring the side in order the previous inning. Lopez rebounded on Sunday to blank the Red Sox over four innings after replacing Maduro. He allowed three hits, all singles, and struck out three.

"I was more comfortable," he said. "That first outing here in Baltimore, that wasn't me, so I was trying to do what I've been doing all those minor-league years, what I was doing in spring training, and that just made me more confident and more relaxed on the mound."

Lopez's previous major-league experience consisted of six starts with the San Diego Padres in 2000. He lost all three decisions while posting an 8.76 ERA in 24 2/3 innings.

The Orioles signed him as a minor-league free agent in November, and Lopez further intrigued them by going 10-2 with a 2.49 ERA in the Mexican Winter League. He went 5-0 in the playoffs, capping the year with a four-hit shutout in the Caribbean World Series.

Rather than be eased back into the majors, Lopez was tossed into the path of the Yankees, the four-time defending American League champions. His trouble began after walking Alfonso Soriano to begin the eighth. Jeter homered, Jason Giambi singled, Bernie Williams walked, and Lopez was gone without recording an out.

"I started to think too much because I walked the first batter on four pitches and I was trying to do my job pretty much perfect," he said. "I don't think I was nervous at all. I was just thinking too much and that affected my performance that day."

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