With a foursome in Detroit, Orioles feel far from lonely

Players meet with media

Roberts isn't bothered by batting ninth in lineup

Baseball

July 12, 2005|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- When Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora attended his first All-Star Game in July 2003, he couldn't really share the experience.

He didn't have any teammates to joke with or to help guide him through the schedule of appearances. As the only Oriole, he felt somewhat alone amid the stars.

"I know I have a lot of friends, but it is not the same [as teammates]," Mora said.

The environment was a little different for him yesterday afternoon. During player interviews, Mora sat at a podium next to Orioles closer B.J. Ryan, who sat next to second baseman Brian Roberts, who sat next to shortstop Miguel Tejada.

One corner of the ballroom at The Ritz-Carlton was Orioles Row, no interlopers from other teams allowed.

"For B-Rob to be here, and B.J. Ryan and Tejada, it's more fun," Mora said. "You feel more comfortable."

Although Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers, who is appealing his 20-game suspension for accosting a cameraman last month, was by far the biggest attraction during the American League media session, the Orioles' quartet wasn't far behind.

Ryan and Roberts answered question after question about what it was like to make their first appearance at the game.

"It is finally starting to set in a little bit, now that you get here and you are surrounded by everybody," Roberts said. "But still I don't know if it really hits you until either the game or after you leave and kind of get to reflect and look back, because there is so much going on."

Roberts was sought out by reporters who wanted to know his thoughts on American League manager Terry Francona's decision to name his own Boston Red Sox player, center fielder Johnny Damon, as the team's leadoff hitter while batting Roberts ninth.

In typical Roberts fashion, he laughed off any potential controversy.

"I just came to have fun and enjoy it, and I couldn't care less where I hit or if I get to hit," Roberts said. "I'd be upset if my manager moved me for somebody else."

Ryan was asked about his progression from struggling middle reliever in 2002 to All-Star closer this season. He gave kudos to those along the way who stuck with him, especially former pitching coach Mark Wiley, who was fired in June 2004.

"He worked wonders for me, man. The time he spent with me out in the bullpen and in the video room," Ryan said of Wiley, now the Florida Marlins' pitching coach. "People really don't know what he does behind the scenes, and I owe a lot of my success to him."

Although he enjoyed being with the other All-Stars, Ryan said he didn't exactly bask in his newfound celebrity Sunday night. Instead of attending an evening party, Ryan stayed in his hotel room and slept.

"We had back-to-back day games, and I was just dead tired," he said.

Ryan is the only Oriole of the four not virtually guaranteed playing time in today's game. Tejada and Roberts are starters, and Mora is the league's only reserve third baseman. Ryan, however, is one of 12 AL pitchers.

"It's my first one, and you kind of just take it all in stride," Ryan said. "But you'd like to go out there and see what you can do when you get on the biggest stage. I never had a chance to pitch in a pennant race or in the playoffs, so it would be pretty good pressure out there to see what you are made of."

Tejada was probably the most besieged Oriole during the hourlong media session, alternating between English and Spanish to answer questions. An All-Star for the third time, he is getting his first start.

"This is great," Tejada said. "I am really proud of myself to start the All-Star Game. It's not easy to start the All-Star Game."

Although the Orioles have four All-Stars for the first time since 1999, Tejada said he wanted more. He said first baseman Rafael Palmeiro deserved to make the team. And Mora said left-hander Erik Bedard would be in Detroit if he hadn't gotten hurt.

Mora, however, predicts Orioles Row will be even longer in 2006.

"Daniel Cabrera is going to be here next year and Rodrigo [Lopez], too," Mora said. "There are more of us going to be here next year."

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