Mora says resurgence not connected to critics

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

August 12, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

CLEVELAND - Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora insists he didn't hear the criticism that resulted from two straight years of declining offensive numbers. He wasn't aware of the mounting opinion that he is on the downside of his career and no longer was a productive middle of the lineup hitter.

And if he had heard all those things, it wouldn't have made much of an impact on the 36-year-old anyway.

"I don't have nothing to prove. I've already done my job. You can check my numbers with all the third baseman in baseball right now and you can see for yourself," Mora said last night.

"I don't care what people say. People talking about that can kiss my butt. That's what I say. People don't say that I was going to hit 20 home runs. People didn't say Kevin Millar was going to hit 20 homers. They didn't say Aubrey Huff was going to hit 300. What are they going to say now?"

Though his eight-game hitting streak ended last night, Mora is in the midst of one of the best stretches of his career. In 22 games since the All-Star break, Mora is 33-for-90 (.367) with eight doubles, six homers and 30 RBIs.

During his eight-game streak, he went 15-for-34 with 13 RBIs with five consecutive multi-hit games.

"It's the same thing I've been doing from the beginning," said Mora, who is hitting well over .360 with runners in scoring position, which is among the best in the American League. "The only thing is they haven't been catching my ball. That's it. When I was hitting in the .090s, I was doing the same thing. When I hit .340 [in 2004], I was doing the same thing. I haven't changed a thing. I knew I could do better if my body feels good."

Mora, who says that he wants to play until he's 50, attributed some of his struggles in a disappointing 2006 season - he hit .274 with 16 homers and 83 RBIs in 155 games - to a foot injury that resulted in a stay on the disabled list. He got off to a poor start this year while dealing with shoulder soreness. Mora had a cortisone shot in his right shoulder during the All-Star break and has been hitting well since.

"I think it's just feeling stronger and feeling a whole lot better coming back from those three days off," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He looks a ... lot more like the player we saw the first few weeks of spring training when he was hitting everything and catching everything, running real good."

Castro sits again

Shortstop Juan Castro was in the Orioles' original lineup last night but was scratched a couple of hours before the game as Trembley wanted to give him one more day to heal. Castro, who told Trembley that he was OK to start, hasn't played since straining his left groin Saturday.

"I think he can play shortstop," said Trembley, who started Alex Cintron in Castro's place. "He's going to hit [in batting practice]. It's one of those things. If he had his druthers, he'd be in the lineup tonight. But I'm listening to Richie Bancells, our head athletic trainer, and giving him one more day."

Fading fast

It wasn't that long ago when Lance Cormier was pitching well enough for Trembley to consider taking him out of his long-relief role and using him in late-game situations. However, those times have changed.

In his past four outings, Cormier has allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 14 hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings. Overall, the veteran right-hander has allowed earned runs in five straight outings and in 10 of his past 14 appearances.

Still at standstill

Orioles director of scouting Joe Jordan said there is "nothing new" to report on the status of negotiations with first-round draft pick Brian Matusz. The Orioles have until midnight Friday to sign the left-handed pitcher or they will lose his draft rights.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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