Mora's power surge leaves him mystified

15 HRs this season match career total entering year

August 08, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Each home run that Melvin Mora hits is an accident. He doesn't predict them and he's not infatuated with them.

The Orioles' most versatile player has been adamant about this ever since baseballs began jumping off his bat like rats from a sinking ship.

Mora accidentally hit one into the second deck at SkyDome this week, which inadvertently gave him 15 this season to match his career total coming into 2002.

He was in the Orioles' lineup again last night, waiting for another accident to happen.

"I'm not trying to hit the ball this hard," he said, grinning again at his long-ball prowess being an issue. "I worked hard in the off-season and I feel better."

Mora was too busy helping to care for his quintuplets last winter to devote much time to baseball-related activities. Changing diapers was more of a priority than changing his stance. Heavy lifting involved transporting the custom-made stroller that held all five babies.

"Last year was tough for me," he said. "I didn't have a chance to work. This time, I concentrated on working more of my muscles."

Which has led to a home run binge that Mora insists is purely unintentional.

"I'm just trying to get a base hit," he said.

Some of them just happen to travel 400 feet.

"He's a strong guy," said manager Mike Hargrove. "The only thing that concerns me about him hitting a lot of home runs is that it hurts his on-base percentage and batting average. I don't think any of us look at Melvin as being a power bat. Now, if he goes out and hits 30 home runs, we'll have to reassess that judgment."

Last night was more about warning-track power. He lined a triple to the fence in left-center to lead off the first inning, with both the ball and Mora gaining speed until he dived into third base. A one-out single by Gary Matthews brought Mora home.

Half of the cycle was completed against Minnesota starter Rick Reed in the second inning when Mora stroked a two-run double into left field, immediately after Hargrove argued a call at the plate that kept the Orioles' lead at 1-0. Mora scored his second run when Luis Lopez followed with a double.

By going 2-for-4, Mora increased his average to .256 heading into tonight's game against the Twins. His 52 RBIs also are the most of his professional career, which began in 1992 and included a call-up by the New York Mets seven years later.

Mora's timing couldn't be better, and not just at the plate. He's eligible for arbitration after the season and should expect a nice pay raise.

"I don't even care about arbitration," said Mora, who earns $350,000 this year. "When you talk about that, it's like you're being selfish. You're not supposed to talk about that. It sounds like you're playing for your numbers. You're supposed to play for the team.

"If you do your job, everything will be fine and you'll get paid."

And if you look for base hits, you're liable to get a few homers.

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