Mora, Roberts leave Florida in some pain

Infielders bruised in Fla. finale

Mora to bat 2nd

Ryan to close

Baseball

March 31, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. - The Florida portion of the Orioles' exhibition schedule concluded yesterday with a 5-5 tie against the St. Louis Cardinals and two of their starting infielders nursing injuries.

Third baseman Melvin Mora left in the third inning after being hit on the side of the right hand, near the wrist, by a fastball from Jeff Suppan. X-rays were negative, but Mora will skip the two-game series in Oklahoma and be examined in Baltimore today by team orthopedist Dr. Charles Silberstein.

Second baseman Brian Roberts was limping after fouling a ball off his right shin in the ninth inning. No X-rays were taken.

"He just has a bad contusion," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "It got half shin, half muscle. They hurt. I've had those."

Though all decisions are subject to change, Mazzilli indicated earlier in the day that Mora would bat second and left-hander B.J. Ryan likely would be the ninth-inning specialist.

Mora was able to flex the hand, though he felt some discomfort when turning the wrist. He's expected to play on Opening Day, but might skip the last three exhibition games. The team will learn more about his availability from Silberstein.

"It's better to have two opinions than one," said Mora, who was accompanied to a local hospital by trainer Richie Bancells.

"The X-rays showed nothing, but it got me pretty good and a bruise is there. They say it'll take two or three days for the swelling to go down, but I'll be fine because I can squeeze Richie's hand."

Mora has been slowed by a severe case of the flu, but even with yesterday's early exit, he still accumulated 49 at-bats.

"I only need one to get ready," he said.

Mazzilli said he is just relieved that Mora didn't break any bones.

"I don't see any reason for him not to be ready on Opening Day," Mazzilli said.

Mazzilli wanted to lower Mora to third, but nobody emerged to hit ahead of him. Larry Bigbie was batting .164 with 10 strikeouts this spring.

Mora batted .354 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 58 starts as the No. 2 hitter last year, and .331 with 14 homers and 61 RBIs in 80 starts as the No. 3.

"I'm not too sure I'm really going to find that 2 hitter, so I'm probably going to look at Melvin in the 2 hole right now," Mazzilli said. "That's where I'm leaning."

David Newhan could bat second when he's in the lineup, allowing Mora to slide down to third, Miguel Tejada to fourth and Sammy Sosa to fifth. Otherwise, Sosa becomes the Orioles' cleanup hitter.

Ryan became their closer last September, with Jorge Julio moving into a setup role, and it looks like the arrangement hasn't changed. Julio got a late start this spring because of a strained right forearm, and Ryan hasn't allowed a run in 11 of his 12 appearances.

The Opening Day lineup also will include Luis Matos in center field. With a pinch hit yesterday, he left Florida batting .386 with 10 RBIs.

Mazzilli isn't ready to name his fifth starter for the rotation, though speculation remains that Rick Bauer will get the assignment. Bruce Chen also is a candidate, and Mazzilli hasn't eliminated Eric DuBose.

Chen is out of minor league options and must pass through waivers before being sent down.

Mazzilli said he'd probably reveal his fifth starter "in the next day or so."

Tentative O's batting order

2B Brian Roberts

3B Melvin Mora

SS Miguel Tejada

RF Sammy Sosa

DH Rafael Palmeiro

C Javy Lopez

1B Jay Gibbons

LF Larry Bigbie

CF Luis Matos

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