Official Farewell For O's Mora

3rd Baseman Agrees To 1-year Deal With Rockies

February 01, 2010|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Although it had been anticipated for months, Melvin Mora's career with the Orioles officially ended Sunday when he agreed to a one-year, $1.3 million deal to be a utility player with the Colorado Rockies. The contract is pending a physical examination this week.

"I do have to get a physical, but I think they'll give me more money because I am stronger than ever before," Mora said jokingly in a phone conversation from Venezuela.

Mora, who turns 38 next Sunday, knew toward the end of last year that he wouldn't be returning to Camden Yards for his 11th season but said it still is not an easy thing to accept.

"What can I say? The fans know my heart is with them and with the organization and with this city. It's completely a part of my life," said Mora, whose family, including his 8-year-old quintuplets, will continue to live in Bel Air. "I am going to love the Orioles for the rest of my life. I'll never forget how they treated me."

Both sides, however, felt it was time to separate, Mora said. Ten seasons of losing wore on him, and he clashed with manager Dave Trembley in the second half of last season, publicly accusing Trembley of disrespect. Now, Mora is joining an organization that captured the National League wild-card berth last season.

"This is a good opportunity for me and especially for myself to smell the playoffs," Mora said. "I know the Rockies have a pretty good team. And I had a lot of discussions with my wife and the family, and we've decided to go with Colorado."

Mora said he and his agent talked to at least a half-dozen other teams- the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals - but the Rockies were the most interested and most aggressive.

Earlier in the offseason, he had an extended phone call with Jim Tracy, the Rockies' manager and the 2009 NL Manager of the Year, and said he knew then that he wanted to be with the Rockies.

"He explained to me exactly what my role is going to be on the team and when you have that kind of respect, it is something that makes you see this is a good thing," Mora said. "Last year, he proved to everybody he is a good manager."

Mora started his big league career with the New York Mets in 1999 as a utility player. He was traded to the Orioles on July 28, 2000, as part of the package for Mike Bordick and played various positions before becoming the club's everyday third baseman in 2004.

He'll be returning to the NL in the familiar utility role. Mora wasn't given an exact number of days he'll play each week, but Tracy told him he would be used everywhere but catcher.

"He told me that I have to be ready for any situation, to be ready for any position at any time," said Mora, who already has instructed his agent to get him a first baseman's mitt. "That's not a problem for me because I am always ready when I go to the ballpark."

Mora ranks in the top 10 in most of the Orioles' career offensive categories, including hits, home runs, doubles, RBIs, runs and at-bats. Only Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson played more games at third base for the Orioles, and Mora's .340 batting average in 2004 is the highest single-season mark in modern club history.

But last season he batted just .260 with eight homers and 48 RBIs in 125 games, a significant drop-off from 2008, when he hit .285 with 23 homers and 104 RBIs.

Mora believes 2009 was simply a down year - one that initially was hampered by recovery from shoulder surgery - and not a testament to advancing age and declining skills.

The Orioles did not pick up his $8 million option for 2010 (part of a three-year, $25 million extension signed in 2006). His $1.3 million contract with the Rockies - which was first reported by FOXsports.com - will be his lowest salary since 2002.

"Last year, I didn't get as many at-bats and I didn't put up the numbers I put up the year before," he said. "And if you don't put up numbers, [a salary cut] happens with a new team."

Mora said he was "surprised, really surprised" when he learned that he will be replaced at third base in Baltimore by his old teammate Miguel Tejada. But Mora, who once was close with Tejada, said he wishes him the best.

"I just have to say good luck to Miggi," Mora said. "I know it will be hard for him. It's not easy to play third base. ... But he'll be fine. Miggi is a good athlete. I just want the fans to support him."

Mora said he will continue to back his old club, which he predicts will soon be a contender in the American League East.

"They are going to have a great team, and I know it is hard in the division, but they just have to do all the routine plays. I think they are going to be close," Mora said. "When the Orioles are good, I will feel good. But this is my decision. It is time to move on and to go somewhere else and explore out there.

"And we chose Colorado and a tremendous organization."

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