- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

VERO BEACH, Fla. There are few players in baseball who can do what Melvin Mora does, which is to say there are few players in baseball who can do just about everything.
Shortstop, center field, second base, left field, right field, third base chances are you'll see Mora playing them all for the Baltimore Orioles at some point this season.
Which is just fine with Mora, so long as he's in the lineup.
"The only thing is I don't like is to be watching other people play," he said. "It's time to do something. I'm ready."
Mora's performance on the field certainly backs that statement up. Though he's appeared in only 10 games after missing nearly two months with a broken finger, Mora has been Baltimore's leading offensive player this spring.
The 198-pounder from Venezuela hit his fourth home run in five games yesterday, a two-run shot off Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Odalis Perez in the Orioles' 7-2 exhibition win. With 24 total bases in 25 at-bats this spring, Mora has an astronomical .960 slugging percentage. (David Segui led Baltimore in that category last year at .473.)
"He's swinging the bat pretty good," manager Mike Hargrove said. "We're just trying to get him at-bats right now, and Melvin's playing real well."
If everything goes according to plan this year, Mora will get plenty of at-bats as the Orioles' "super-utility" man a role that is ideal for such a versatile player.
Mora will spell Mike Bordick at shortstop once or twice a week. He'll play center field in place of Chris Singleton occasionally, probably against tough left-handers. He'll give Jerry Hairston the occasional day off at second base. And he'll be one of Hargrove's first players off the bench for key late-inning situations.
To ensure that Mora is available for all of those roles, Hargrove and vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift plan to field an Opening Day roster that includes another pure backup infielder.
"I would think that we will probably take an extra infielder other than Melvin," Hargrove said. "That's the conventional wisdom. Taking an extra infielder makes more sense than taking an extra outfielder."
Thrift said yesterday he will keep six infielders and five outfielders on his roster. That would indicate the Orioles are planning to keep three catchers for at least the first week of the season, because Hargrove already said he'll open the season with 11 pitchers (not 12) until No. 5 starter Calvin Maduro comes off the disabled list April 6.
If Mora is counted as an outfielder and first baseman/DH Jeff Conine is counted as an infielder, that leaves one infielder spot and one outfielder spot still up for grabs in the final days of camp. It is becoming fairly obvious, however, that those last two position players will be Mike Moriarty and Luis Garcia.
Moriarty and Brian Roberts are the only infielders still in the running, and the Orioles have said repeatedly this spring that the 24-year-old Roberts needs to play every day in the minors. That means Moriarty who spent seven years in the Minnesota Twins' organization without ever making it to the majors is virtually assured a roster spot, though the 28-year-old continues to sweat it out these last few days.
"I'm getting more gray hair, if that's what you mean," he said. "I already got some when I got married, now I'm getting more. I haven't heard anything, and I don't want to think anything right now. We've got three or four days left, and you know how this game is: anything can happen."
Moriarty is hitting just .214 in 19 games this spring, but he's lived up to his reputation by playing solid defense at both shortstop and second base.
"To be honest with you, I haven't hit the ball as well as I would have liked," he said. "But you know, what's done is done. Grover's been real fair to me he's given me plenty of playing time, especially early. Hopefully I've made the most of it."
The final outfield spot now appears to be Garcia's after yesterday's announcement that the Orioles cut Chad Allen. Allen, a former Twins outfielder trying to come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, was one of three non-roster invitees reassigned to Baltimore's minor-league camp along with catcher Izzy Molina and third baseman Jose Leon.
Try as he did to get his injured knee back to 100 percent in time for the regular season (he guessed he's still one or two weeks away), Allen could not convince Hargrove he was ready to go.
"He told me he wanted me, but it was my knee that didn't make the team," said Allen, who will remain with the Orioles through today's game in Fort Lauderdale. "As soon as I get healthy, if something happens, maybe I can get back up here."
Allen's departure leaves only Garcia and Ryan McGuire in the mix for the final roster spot, but McGuire (another non-roster invitee who played in the majors with the Marlins and Expos) has played almost exclusively at first base this spring, while Garcia has played 18 games, all in the outfield.
Garcia, a .332 hitter with 19 homers and 82 RBI in only 92 games for the Mexico City Tigers last season, went 2-for-5 yesterday to raise his spring average to .250.
Notes Sidney Ponson allowed two runs and six hits in six innings yesterday to improve his spring record to 3-1. He also followed up Jason Johnson's homer from Sunday with a single. …
First baseman/DH David Segui may play for the first time today since straining his right Achilles' tendon March 15. Outfielder Chris Singleton, suffering from a similar injury, is not yet ready to return. He likely won't play at least until the Orioles leave Florida for an exhibition game in Atlanta on Friday. …
Among those sitting in the press box at Dodgertown yesterday were a pair of unemployed football masterminds: former New York Giants, Jets and New England Patriots coach Bill Parcells and former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf. Parcells owns a home in Jupiter, Fla., and attends several spring training games each year. Wolf, who has a home in Annapolis and grew up an Orioles fan, is an old high school acquaintance of Orioles traveling secretary Phil Itzoe.



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