Mora says time is short for contract

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

With free agency looming, All-Star gives O's few more days

Penn sent to Ottawa

Notebook

March 23, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Hoping to have his contract situation settled one way or the other by the end of this week, Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora said that he will give the club a few more days before cutting off the talks.

Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos is expected to return from Europe later this week, and Mora, who is entering the last year of his contract, expressed hope that his return could lead to getting a deal done. The All-Star third baseman has made it clear that he wants to stay in Baltimore, but would leave for free agency if he doesn't get what he feels is a fair deal.

"I don't want to put pressure on [Angelos] if he's not around here," Mora said. "But as soon as he gets here, I just want to get the deal done if we are going to do it or if we don't, I don't want to think about it. I really hope everything goes good for both parties, for him and me."

Lon Babby, Mora's agent, presented a proposal on a contract extension to the club this week, but hasn't heard back from the club. Mora, 34, who is believed to be seeking a three-year deal worth about $10 million a season, said that it represents the final attempt to reach agreement on an extension before the start of the season.

"It will be done after that," Mora said. "I don't want to keep talking about my contract. I am just going to keep playing. That's all I can tell you. I have a lot of games to play and I don't want to worry about the other stuff."

Penn, 9 others optioned

After giving heavy consideration to using Hayden Penn to strengthen a fragile bullpen, the Orioles decided against it and instead optioned the 21-year-old pitching prospect to Triple-A Ottawa. Penn was one of 10 cuts for the Orioles yesterday, reducing their active spring training roster to 41.

"There was a lot of discussion about Hayden possibly pitching in the bullpen for us, but he wouldn't be pitching high enough in the back end of the rotation to get enough work in," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo.

Penn had a solid spring, posting a 2.45 ERA while giving up three earned runs and eight hits in 11 innings. But ultimately, the club couldn't find a spot for him with the starting rotation already set.

"He's a kid that we feel can be a good starter for us," Perlozzo said. "He needs to go down there and pitch and get innings in and be ready for us if something happens up here, rather than sitting in the bullpen and not learning how to pitch. He's too valuable to us and the organization to sit in the bullpen at this particular time."

Utility infielder Brandon Fahey and outfielder Val Majewski were also optioned to Triple-A Ottawa, while outfielder Jeff Fiorentino was sent to Double-A Bowie. Relief pitchers Winston Abreu and Scott Rice and first basemen Alejandro Freire and Andy Tracy were reassigned to the club's minor league camp in Sarasota.

The Orioles gave veteran reliever Ricky Bottalico and utility infielder Luis Lopez their outright release. Lopez hit .364 this spring, but got just 11 at-bats. Bottalico was 0-1 with a 19.80 ERA in five innings of work.

Matos-Walker deal off?

After serious talks for several weeks about a potential Todd Walker for Luis Matos deal, the trade talks between the Chicago Cubs and Orioles have cooled significantly in recent days, according to an industry source.

The Orioles wanted the Cubs to pay the difference of the two players' salaries - the Chicago second baseman makes approximately $900,000 more than the Orioles center fielder - but the clubs have yet to agree on the monetary amount and have not made any progress toward getting the deal done.

With Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts looking like he will be ready for Opening Day after offseason shoulder surgery, club officials also are concerned with how they were going to be able to get Walker, a .305 hitter last season, enough at-bats.

The Orioles are still having trade dialogue with several teams, with a corner outfielder, a left-handed relief pitcher and a backup catcher atop their wish list.

Around the horn

Perlozzo said that the decision on whether top position prospect Nick Markakis makes the Orioles' Opening Day roster will likely come down to the end of spring training. Markakis started in center field for the second straight day with Corey Patterson starting in left. Perlozzo called the outfield situation blurry. ... Former Orioles manager and baseball Hall of Famer Earl Weaver was at yesterday's game. ... The Orioles are expected to keep most of their regulars, including Roberts, Mora and Jay Gibbons, back in Fort Lauderdale, rather than having them travel with the team to Viera for the game against the Washington Nationals. ... Javy Lopez, who has been used exclusively at first base since returning from the World Baseball Classic, will catch today.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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