Mora continues to shuffle around lineup for Orioles


He starts at shortstop in place of Bordick

Johnson making progress


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

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Making consecutive starts no longer qualifies as a novelty for the Orioles' Melvin Mora.

Just don't expect him to make them at the same position. Now that would be different.

Mora continues to move around, starting last night at shortstop in place of Mike Bordick. In the previous seven games, he was written into the lineup at second base, center field, left field, center, left, center and second.

Regarded as a utility player coming out of spring training, Mora can more accurately be portrayed as a utility starter.

"I just love to play baseball. It doesn't matter where they put me," he said before last night's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

"Sometimes it can be difficult. You come in here with your mind sort of blank because you don't know where you'll be playing. But that's fine with me. It's the manager's decision."

Mike Hargrove has decided that Mora is too valuable to sit on the bench. He is batting .350 (14-for-40) in his past 11 games after going 2-for-4 last night, and entered the game ranked second in the American League with a .436 on-base percentage.

"I just come here and try to do the best I can and try to win every game we play," he said. "That's important to me."

Johnson not yet ready

Though not ready to come off the disabled list yesterday, Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson made significant progress in his return from a fractured middle finger.

Johnson threw from a bullpen mound for the first time since suffering the injury on April 25. He extended the session to 90 feet and reported minimal discomfort.

"Obviously I still feel it but not as much as two days ago," he said. "There's 50 percent less pain than before. I'm happy with it."

While still wearing a splint on the finger, Johnson had predicted that he would make last night's start against the Devil Rays rather than need a third week of recovery. His timetable changed once the splint came off and the hand didn't flex easily.

Johnson threw from a flat surface Wednesday and said the finger was "a little tender."

"At least now I can actually tie my shoes," he said.

Johnson wants to avoid making a rehab start in the minors, but Hargrove seems convinced it will be necessary.

"First of all, I have to be able to throw off a mound without pain," Johnson said. "I don't want to go out there and still hurt while I'm trying to throw and not be at my best. Once there's no pain when I throw, we'll find out what's going on."

Said Hargrove: "We'll check it next weekend and see where he's going to go to rehab, even though he says he doesn't need one."

Erickson update

With his next start not scheduled until Wednesday, there's still plenty of time for Scott Erickson's status to change. But for now, Hargrove believes his ace will be available to pitch after a strained groin muscle forced Erickson out of Wednesday's game in the third inning.

Erickson probably will throw on the side before tomorrow's game.

"We'll know more then, but he feels a lot better today," Hargrove said.

Hiding Colome

Tampa Bay manager Hal McRae indicated yesterday, with a trace of a smile, that he would prefer hiding Jesus Colome in his bullpen rather than expose him to the Orioles' hitters.

Colome is having enough trouble this season. Left-handers are batting .550 (11-for-20) against him, the highest average among major-league pitchers. Last season, he held them to a .188 average.

The first batters he faced were 7-for-10, also the highest average among relievers, and the opposition's overall .382 average against him ranks second in the league. He also has allowed seven of nine inherited runners to score.

The Orioles tagged him for seven earned runs (eight total) in one-third of an inning on April 11, when they erupted for 12 runs in the sixth at Camden Yards. He allowed six hits and walked two, and threw 31 pitches before McRae rescued him. A week later, he surrendered the go-ahead run in the 14th inning at Tropicana Field.

Even though Colome threw two shutout innings on April 21, striking out four but needing 37 pitches, McRae said, "I think I'll stay away from him. They handle him pretty well."

Smith still in Florida

Pitcher Chris Smith, the Orioles' first-round draft pick in June and the seventh overall player selected, remains at extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla., after experiencing shoulder stiffness.

Smith threw two innings on Wednesday and eventually will pitch for one of the Orioles' short-season affiliates, with Bluefield or Aberdeen the likely destination. He got into two games with the rookie-level Gulf Coast Orioles last year, with both appearances coming in the final week of the season.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.