Mora leaves team after family death

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Oriole's brother dies in Venezuela

player may rejoin club tomorrow

April 22, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Melvin Mora left the Orioles yesterday morning after learning of his brother's death in Venezuela, and it's uncertain when he will rejoin the club.

Mora received a phone call from his wife, Gisel, about two hours before yesterday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Scheduled to lead off and play shortstop, Mora met his sister in Miami before flying to Valencia.

Club officials speculated he could return for tomorrow's game against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards, but a funeral and travel restrictions brought on by a government takeover could keep him there longer.

"I think he's going to try to be back on Tuesday. He's concerned about his mother," said Syd Thrift, Orioles vice president for baseball operations.

"The whole thing is a bad situation."

Mora didn't know any details of his brother's death on Friday - the second to strike a player's family in the past six months. Catcher Fernando Lunar's brother was killed in Venezuela on the final day of the 2001 season.

Manager Mike Hargrove replaced Mora in the lineup with Mike Bordick, who would have been given the afternoon off. Jerry Hairston returned to the leadoff spot after batting ninth the past three games.

Towers likely to skip turn

Though no official announcement has been made, it appears Josh Towers will be skipped in the Boston series that begins tomorrow night at Camden Yards.

With an open date today, Hargrove will allow Scott Erickson to begin the series on regular rest. The other two starters are listed as undecided.

Hargrove wouldn't confirm that Towers, who's 0-3 with a 5.59 ERA in three starts, would miss his next turn. "I haven't talked to him yet," he said.

That meeting came in Hargrove's office after yesterday's game.

Hargrove could keep Calvin Maduro and Jason Johnson on normal rest by starting them in the last two games of the series.

Singleton sits

The first two-hit game for Chris Singleton was followed by a day on the bench.

Hargrove elected to start Gary Matthews Jr. rather than see if Singleton could build on his finest offensive game as an Oriole, when he went 2-for-4 with a run-scoring triple in Saturday's 6-3 victory. Matthews took his place and went 1-for-2 with two walks and a stolen base.

"A lot of times a guy gets a couple hits and it's not bad to sit on them, especially as long as he's struggled, and generate those good vibes," Hargrove said.

Better results for Hairston

Hairston said he continues using the same offensive approach, but the results were noticeably different once the Orioles reached Tampa.

His average stood at .158 before he went 4-for-8 with three doubles, a walk and his first RBI in two games of the series. He was batting .222 before going 0-for-4 yesterday and dropping to .204.

"I guess everybody was kind of down on me, but I was never down on myself," he said.

"The first week of the season, I lined out a few times. That's just how it goes. It's the nature of the game. You just keep the same approach, and I know good things will happen. I've felt comfortable since spring training. Last April, I hit like .130 and was having terrible at-bats. I was lost, and I was trying to find it.

"I was really conscious this off-season of having an approach and sticking with it. I thought I accomplished that, and I've felt great at the plate. I wasn't striking out a lot or getting jammed. I was taking good hacks. But things can't go your way all the time."

Gibbons strikes first

Jay Gibbons' single in the sixth inning made him 13-for-24 when putting the first pitch into play. Six of his league-leading seven homers have come on the first offering.

This isn't being done by design.

"I don't have any mentality," he said. "I call myself a stupid hitter. I'll swing at any pitch at any time. If they're going to throw me a first-pitch strike, I'm probably going to swing at it. If it's a changeup, fastball, whatever. I'm a reactional hitter. That's how I've always been."

Said Hargrove: "Jay goes up there swinging. He'll make some ugly outs and then all of a sudden, wham, he hits one. I'm sure word will get around the league. It probably already has. If they adjust to him, then he'll have to readjust. That's what the game is all about."

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