Melvin Mora arrived at Camden Yards yesterday around 12:10 p.m., a delayed flight out of New York ruining his chances of starting Game 1 of a doubleheader with the Cleveland Indians. But he didn't have to wait until the second game to make his Orioles debut, or to be robbed of a hit and a few RBIs.
Mora was inserted at second base by manager Mike Hargrove in the seventh inning with the Indians leading, 13-3. Just enough time to bat with the bases loaded and two outs. Just enough time to be introduced to former Oriole Roberto Alomar, who made a diving stop of his grounder up the middle and flipped to shortstop Omar Vizquel for the force.
"I hit it pretty good," he said. "I thought it was going through, but you know who that guy is playing in the middle of the infield."
Mora started at shortstop in Game 2, going 2-for-4 with an RBI double to complete his first day in Baltimore after being acquired from the New York Mets on Friday.
"It would have been nice for him to have been here in time to be in the lineup [for Game 1], but it's hard for a player to just drop everything and be here instantly," Hargrove said.
"I certainly understand the things you have to coordinate as far as where you live and getting to where you're going, and if you've got a family to take care of and making sure they're all situated and everything's right in their world."
Mora's world was rocked a bit on Friday because the trade came as a surprise to him despite persistent rumors. Looking for a full-time shortstop with Rey Ordonez out for the season, the Mets dealt him to the Orioles along with three minor-leaguers for Mike Bordick, who homered yesterday on the first pitch of his first at-bat with his new club.
Mora heard about the trade while at home with his wife and daughter. Upon getting to the ballpark yesterday, he inherited the locker and No. 6 that had belonged to released outfielder Rich Amaral.
"I was surprised," he said. "We were like 12 games over .500, but anything is possible in this sport."
Mora made 38 starts at shortstop with the Mets, but also played second base, third and all three outfield positions. He's expected to get most of his starts at shortstop over the last two months, with rookie Ivanon Coffie and Mark Lewis also in the mix. But his versatility will make it difficult for Hargrove to keep him in one place.
In 66 games with the Mets last season - his first in the majors - Mora played the outfield in 45 of them. He had four outfield assists in the playoffs, one short of the postseason record set by Lonnie Smith in 1985.
"I think to start with, I'm looking at him as a shortstop," Hargrove said, "but eventually we look at him as a guy who can play a number of positions and play them well."
Mora said he's comfortable at shortstop but considers his best position to be center field, which currently is occupied by Brady Anderson or rookie Luis Matos.
Having been in the Houston Astros' and Mets' organizations, with a detour through Taiwan in 1998, Mora is experiencing life on the American League side for the first time. The appeal for him is no longer worrying about coming out of games during a double-switch - a move unnecessary in a league where pitchers don't bat.
"The more you play, the more you learn," he said.
The Orioles played their second doubleheader of the season, with three others on the horizon against Oakland, Tampa Bay and Texas.
"It's certainly not something that any of us want to do," said Hargrove, "but ... you get what sleep you can and go for it."
Clubhouse mood change
Hargrove sensed yesterday that his players had grown more accepting of the changes that hit on Friday. Losing Bordick, and the potential for other moves that were completed later in the day, seemed to have knocked everyone a little off-stride.
"I think when it originally happens, everything kind of goes into a lull for a little while and then they bounce back," Hargrove said. "I know yesterday before the game there was no music being played in the clubhouse, which is unusual. But today, about 10:15, the music came on and the clubhouse started percolating again.
"These guys understand trades, they understand the business of the game, and they also understand that you have to go on. There's a period of adjustment. I think everybody's excited that Melvin Mora's coming here and everybody's kind of on a downer because Mike got traded. But you understand those things and you go on."
Parrish: Day Two
John Parrish created quite a stir in his major-league debut Monday by striking out nine in seven innings in a 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees. Now comes the encore - today's assignment against the Indians.
"When you start off with a team like the Yankees, I guess you can say the jitters are out of the way," he said.
The Orioles aren't exactly breaking him in slowly. First he was matched up against five-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens. Now he gets All-Star left-hander Chuck Finley, one of the more hotly pursued free agents this winter before signing with the Indians.
"Hopefully I'll just go out and compete and be able to keep us in the game," Parrish said. "Who I pitch against doesn't matter.
"Everybody has a bad game and everybody has a great game. Nothing much is going to change. Your chances are the same either way."