Switch leaves Mora behind

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Third baseman stays at camp, takes long ride today

March 14, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

JUPITER, Fla. -- Melvin Mora was expected to be in the Orioles' lineup against the Florida Marlins yesterday, but those plans changed about two hours before the first pitch, when manager Sam Perlozzo learned that the third baseman wasn't even with the team.

An apparent mix-up led Mora to stay in Fort Lauderdale yesterday morning to work out and take batting practice. Perlozzo said Mora probably misread the travel sheet posted inside the clubhouse and didn't realize he was playing in yesterday's exhibition, although the manager hadn't spoken to the player as of yesterday afternoon to get an explanation.

Perlozzo changed his lineup, inserting Desi Relaford at third base and into the third spot in the batting order.

"We've been going every other day on the trips," Perlozzo said. "I switched it up a little bit so that he was going today and not tomorrow. I don't know if he misread that or what."

The Orioles' higher-profile veterans, such as Mora, Jay Gibbons and Kevin Millar, have mostly been making every other road trip this spring. The Orioles travel to Port St. Lucie today to face the New York Mets, a much longer trip than yesterday's bus ride to Jupiter.

Asked if Mora will make that trip, a smiling Perlozzo said, "I think he'll probably get a phone call."

Tatis takes second

Seated at his locker yesterday, spring training invitee Fernando Tatis, a career third baseman, was asked when he last played second base.

Tatis, who had a quiet day at second base yesterday, thought about it, and after an uncomfortable pause, he said, "A long time ago. ... It's a little bit weird, but when you play infield, it's all the same."

Tatis has played in 663 major league games, but none at second base. With Brian Roberts' availability unsure for Opening Day, Perlozzo has plugged in infielders at several different positions to get a look at his options.

"He's a guy that if he doesn't make the club, he may fit in at some point in the system as a utility guy," Perlozzo said. "He has a right-handed bat, and he can play around, maybe even in the outfield."

Who's in center?

Perlozzo continued to shuffle his outfielders. Nick Markakis started in center, flanked by Corey Patterson in left and David Newhan in right. Markakis and Newhan have played all three outfield positions this spring, but it was Patterson's first start away from center field.

Patterson has had an up-and-down spring, but at this point, he appears to have the clear lead on incumbent Luis Matos for the starting center-field spot. Matos has been away for the past two weeks, playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

"I think the advantage Patterson has is that I am getting a chance to see him more," said Perlozzo, who said the club has gotten positive reports on Matos' play in the Classic. "He can take advantage of that. I can get to know him a little bit better. But at the same time ... he was going to get a chance to play one way or the other."

Perlozzo inferred that Matos will still have a big role even if he doesn't start.

"We got to put 25 guys out there who we feel are going to help us win," Perlozzo said. "If it turns out that somebody is not going to handle [being on the bench] well and be a detriment to us at that point of time, I am willing to do something else to try and find another answer. I don't want to put up with somebody who doesn't want to play."

As rotation turns

Perlozzo said that he and pitching coach Leo Mazzone are down to two scenarios in shaping their rotation for the regular season and are awaiting Rodrigo Lopez's and Daniel Cabrera's return from the World Baseball Classic to finalize their decision.

The Orioles manager said the rotation might be matchup-driven with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Boston Red Sox, the first two teams on the schedule.

"I believe we have a group of starters that I am comfortable with whether they throw second or fourth," Perlozzo said. "I am not going to be disappointed that Daniel would have to wait to pitch fourth or he would pitch second. I feel those bunch of guys could come out of there, anyway. ... The way they come out of the chute is not going to be a big deal."

Lopez remains the favorite to start on Opening Day, an honor that Perlozzo said "you don't take lightly."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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