Mora gets off to cold start at hot corner

Three errors in 2 games leave him kicking himself

April 07, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The frustration carried Melvin Mora into left field yesterday. He probably wanted to be whisked completely out of Camden Yards.

Still adapting to a full-time job at third base, Mora committed two more errors yesterday in the Orioles' 4-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Factor in the one he made during Sunday night's opener, on the first ball hit to him, and the season already is bullying him.

Mora allowed a sharp grounder from Kevin Millar to skip under his glove in the sixth inning, and two walks loaded the bases before reliever John Parrish escaped the jam.

The Orioles weren't so lucky in the ninth. Another grounder to Mora's left, this one by Ellis Burks, deflected off his glove as Pokey Reese scored. It should have been the last out. It should have kept Boston's lead at 3-1.

Agitated beyond words, Mora snapped his head back and continued to drift into the outfield as if his feet were failing him, too. He returned to his position in time to knock down a bouncer from Manny Ramirez and throw to first - small consolation for a player who looked like he needed a place to hide.

"I don't remember making that many errors in one game," said Mora, who also went 0-for-4 and struck out twice against Curt Schilling. "There's no excuse. It was an easy grounder every time and I missed them. It just happened."

Mora didn't field a grounder until the sixth. He caught a popup from David Ortiz to begin the fourth.

"You have five innings straight and they don't hit you a ground ball, then they hit you one and you're surprised," he said. "But they were routine plays. It was a tough day, but it can happen to anybody."

Before reporting to spring training, Mora had made only seven appearances at third base in his career, none since 2000. The Orioles chose him as Tony Batista's replacement because of his athleticism and a lack of viable options in the minors.

The experiment hasn't blown up in their faces, but it's leaving a thick cloud on the left side of the infield.

"Today was just a tough day," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "During camp, I felt he was fine. He looked good. It was just one of those days, that's all."

Any problems in spring training came on balls hit directly at Mora, who admitted that he still had "shortstop legs" and needed to set himself earlier. But all three errors in this series have come on grounders to his left.

"When we got here, we really didn't have a chance to get on the field. It could be the background. It could be a lot of things. It's nothing mechanically," Mazzilli said.

"I'll speak to him about it. He's a third baseman. Guys make errors. He's going over to a new position where he's there every day. He's trying to find that comfort zone. I'm not concerned about it."

Bench coach Sam Perlozzo, who works with the infielders, said he'll watch tapes of the first two games before huddling with Mora.

"I'm not overly concerned because he went the entire spring and I thought he was good on balls to his left and right. I was a little more worried about the ball right at him just because you don't have much reaction time," Perlozzo said.

"Instead of being a little more aggressive, I think he's a little more tentative than he was in the spring. But I don't see this being any long-term situation. It's just a matter of him getting his confidence back."

Shortstop Miguel Tejada gave Mora a pep talk yesterday, assuring him that better times were ahead.

"I told him don't worry about it," Tejada said. "The season's just starting. You have to be strong. It's over. Tomorrow's another game."

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