After trip home, a tired, saddened Mora rejoins O's

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Shooting death of brother leaves outfielder shaken

Gibbons takes a seat

April 25, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Melvin Mora returned to the Orioles and their starting lineup yesterday, appearing fresh and in good spirits despite the strain of his brother's death in Venezuela and a 1 a.m. arrival in Baltimore.

Mora joined his mother in Valencia on Sunday and missed two games. He replaced Chris Singleton in center field last night and batted leadoff against Boston left-hander Darren Oliver.

Jose Mora, one of five brothers in the family, was shot twice at his home over the weekend, the victim of an apparent contract murder. Melvin, who estimated Jose's age at 30 or 31, said his brother was targeted by a group of men after being involved in a fight. He said the contract paid $300, a figure he said was confirmed when he received a phone call from a suspect who admitted taking the money but denied any involvement in the killing.

"Then why did he take the money? Why wouldn't he call me when he knows that? That doesn't make sense to me," said Mora, who also has four sisters.

"We already know who did it but I don't take justice in my hands. That's not what I believe in. I follow what God tells me, and God doesn't want to kill nobody. So I don't want to do exactly what they did.

"They killed my brother but I won't take a life. I don't want to do anything bad to them."

Mora is hoping to move some family members to one of his houses in a safer area in Valencia, though he understands the difficulty in removing all threats of violence.

"This doesn't surprise me about Venezuela. The life we have over there is crazy," he said.

The murder hit his mother especially hard because of her close relationship to Jose.

"He was one of those momma's boys. He hugged my mother all the time. That's why she hurt so much. It hurts when you see your mother crying," Mora said.

"She was feeling better after she saw me. Everything's calmed down. I won't say it's fine, but it's calmed down. I know it's hard, but I told her life goes on. You have to keep going from here."

Mora took a "back-to-business" approach to playing last night, but admitted he hadn't slept much since Sunday. His thoughts hadn't strayed far from Jose, either, but Mora wasn't going to use his grief as an excuse for a poor game and vowed to maintain his focus for nine innings.

"You have to be strong," said Mora, who had to leave in the fifth inning after being hit on the right leg by a pitch from Darren Oliver. "I can't play baseball thinking about it."

Gibbons sits out

Jay Gibbons wasn't in the lineup for only the second time this season, with a sore ankle, stomach virus and left-handed pitcher conspiring to keep him on the bench at the beginning.

Manager Mike Hargrove reasoned that last night presented a logical opportunity to rest Gibbons, whose ankle remains sore after an outfield collision with second baseman Jerry Hairston during Sunday's game against Tampa Bay.

Gibbons ranks among the American League leaders with seven homers, but was batting .063 against left-handers before last night, compared to .370 vs. right-handers.

Roster shuffle

The Orioles remained at 11 pitchers and 14 position players yesterday, an equation that shouldn't last much longer.

Infielder Brian Roberts arrived from Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday, with left-hander Erik Bedard returning to Double-A Bowie, while Mora remained in Venezuela. The roster move reduced the pitching staff to 11 for the second time this season.

Asked about returning to 12, Hargrove indicated another transaction could come within "the next couple of days."

Around the horn

Tony Batista extended his hitting streak to nine games with a run-scoring single in the first inning. ... Rodrigo Lopez and Geronimo Gil are believed to be the first Mexican battery mates in Orioles history.

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