Mora, Angelos will meet today

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

One-on-one meeting is last-ditch attempt to extend contract

Lopez OK as DH

Hendricks tribute set

notebook

March 31, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

JUPITER, Fla. -- With Opening Day looming, Orioles All-Star third baseman Melvin Mora has been unable to work out a contract extension with the Orioles, and this morning's meeting with team owner Peter Angelos may be the last chance.

Mora, who is entering the final season of his three-year, $10.5 million deal, has said that he won't negotiate during the season. The third baseman has heavily considered cutting off the negotiations at a couple of points this spring, but the Orioles and his agent, Lon Babby, have talked him out of it.

He has said from the beginning that he wants to stay in Baltimore, where he and his wife and their six kids live year-round; however, he is also open to leaving via free agency if he doesn't get what he thinks is a fair offer.

"I hope everything goes well for both parties. That's a good decision for him. I get to know him more. I get to know who is going to pay me more," joked Mora, who will visit Angelos' downtown law office this morning for a one-on-one meeting.

Babby and the Orioles' front office have been discussing an extension for several months, and have been unable to close the gap. According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, the Orioles offered the two-time All-Star a three-year deal worth $24 million. Babby was initially looking for a three-year deal worth approximately $10 million per season. Mora's agent made another proposal last week.

"I know what Melvin has said, but I think it is important to continue the dialogue," said Orioles vice president Jim Duquette. "I don't think we should be putting any deadlines on it. We've felt all along that they are arbitrary deadlines. The agent has said that as long as we have productive conversations, we'll keep the dialogue going. No need to call it off unless there is some significant reason to do it."

Mora said that he'd have no hard feelings if a deal wasn't worked out.

"I am just going to play baseball," he said. "I am optimistic. I hope everything goes well. I want to just go and try to work everything out because I think we have a good team."

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo was optimistic as well. "Peter has a way of getting something done. Hopefully, it will work out for both sides. We'll see what happens [today]."

Lopez OK with decision

A day after learning that he was likely no longer the Orioles' Opening Day first baseman, Javy Lopez said that he agreed with Perlozzo's decision because it will help him get his timing back as a hitter.

Perlozzo announced the decision on Wednesday, hopeful that Lopez will spend more time on his hitting, rather than putting so much effort in making the transition from a catcher into a first baseman.

"I think I need to put a little more effort in my hitting and when that side comes back, then I could easily go back to first base and be level in both," said Lopez, who is hitting .116 and is mired in an 0-for-16 slump. "I actually wanted it. I guess the fact that I was working so much at first base during spring training, I kind of [cut] back my hitting."

Lopez has maintained all along that he would not be pleased being an every-day designated hitter, but that appears the direction the Orioles are going in, at least for the time being.

"I like the fact that I learned a lot about playing first base," said Lopez, who said he's not that far away from being a decent first baseman. "I don't want to throw that away. I want to continue getting better at first base. ... If they put me at DH, now, during the season, the end of the season, I can't let that bother me anymore. That's a decision I have no control over. What I have to do is just like this, otherwise I'm going to go crazy."

Hendricks to be honored

The Orioles have planned a tribute of late player and coach Elrod Hendricks at Monday's season opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Video montages honoring Hendricks, who died in December after spending a record 37 seasons in an Orioles uniform, will be played throughout the game. The Orioles will also wear a patch with Hendricks' No. 44 on their uniform sleeves.

Hendricks' sons, Ian and Ryan, will throw out the game's first pitches.

Around the horn

Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons missed his third straight game because of upper back soreness, but at this point, his status for Opening Day doesn't appear in jeopardy. ... The Orioles will release veteran infielder Desi Relaford today. The veteran hit .171 this spring with a .256 on-base percentage.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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