With bunts, Mora lays down on job, and O's are thrilled

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Surrounded by sluggers, he refines his small-ball past

Segui plays first

Orioles

April 25, 2004|By Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen | Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Sixteen games into the season, it appears that Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora has brought back another aspect of his game: the bunt.

Mora has three bunt singles, half as many as he accumulated last season. He led the team with 17 in 2001, but had only one the following year as his power numbers started to increase.

The Orioles will take home runs from Mora, but they don't need them as much with Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro and Javy Lopez inhabiting the middle of their lineup.

Because he's batting second, Mora's responsibilities include moving up runners, not circling the bases behind them. And if he can catch the third baseman playing back, then his ability to bunt becomes a more valuable weapon.

"I think over the past couple years, if he's gotten away from it, it's because the team hasn't had the punch that it has now," said Orioles bench coach Sam Perlozzo. "Now he's got some people hitting behind him. The weight on him to drive in runs is less severe, and it really allows him to play his game."

Mora, who has been used exclusively in the No. 2 hole this season, also leads the team with three sacrifice bunts. But he insists that his approach hasn't changed. He said third basemen started moving closer to the plate in 2001 while anticipating the bunt, which caused him to take a more aggressive approach.

"I want them to come in so I can swing the bat," he said.

Mora swung it pretty well yesterday, collecting two singles and scoring three runs. He also walked and reached on an error.

Segui dusts off glove

Looking to provide some rest for Palmeiro after a night game, manager Lee Mazzilli used him as the designated hitter yesterday and started David Segui at first base.

This was Segui's first opportunity to play in the field since spring training.

"It's been a while," he said, "but I've been taking my ground balls every day."

Injuries have limited Segui's opportunities since signing with the Orioles in December 2000, but he didn't commit an error in 58 chances last year and ranks fifth all-time in fielding percentage (.99536) among players at the position behind Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Wes Parker and J.T. Snow.

"You always want to play as much first base as you can," he said.

Segui lasted nine innings before B.J. Surhoff replaced him.

TV timeout

After waiting through a rain delay Friday night and four attempts by actor Martin Sheen to throw a strike for filming of the television series The West Wing, Mazzilli was glad to have some normalcy return to the ballpark for yesterday's game.

The sun was shining, and the only drama involved whether his team would win.

"I don't know if the weather had something to do with it, but I think there was some miscommunication on the start time, but we just had to roll with it," Mazzilli said.

"That's the first time I was ever really involved in something like that, having a TV show right before the first pitch. The producers seemed like they were worried more about their time than ours. It was a little different."

Clark times return again

Timing hasn't always been Howie Clark's strong suit, but he seems to end up at Camden Yards whenever the Blue Jays recall him from the minors.

After doing it last year, Clark has made a return appearance in this series. He joined the Blue Jays in Toronto on Wednesday and collected four hits against the Boston Red Sox before accompanying the team to Baltimore, where he made his major league debut with the Orioles in 2002.

"It was really special to come back last year for the first time, sitting in the other dugout," said Clark, who was drafted by the Orioles in 1992. "Now it's another year, but it's always fun to come back. I know guys over there and the fans are always great. But last year was more special."

Clark, 30, started at second base Friday and went 0-for-4 with an RBI. He hit .357 in 38 games with the Blue Jays last season, but job security continues to elude him. The Orioles didn't keep him after he batted .302 in 14 games.

"That's baseball. It's out of your hands," he said. "You can't wonder how long it's going to be because it's out of your hands. Just focus on your job, do it and enjoy it. I don't think you can play this game while looking over your shoulder."

Around the horn

Former Orioles pitcher Josh Towers was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays after yesterday's game, and reliever Aquilino Lopez was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. Towers was 0-1 with a 7.27 ERA after making Friday's start against the Orioles. ... The Blue Jays purchased the contract of right-hander Justin Miller from Syracuse and recalled right-hander Micheal Nakamura from the same club. ... Toronto has come from behind in four of its five wins. ... Tejada is 8-for-19 (.421) against former Oriole Pat Hentgen with four homers and nine RBIs

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