CLEVELAND - The Orioles benefited from one of the most bizarre plays of the season last night when shortstop Melvin Mora manufactured a triple play out of a seemingly innocuous second-inning pop fly. The play not only allowed Orioles starting pitcher Sidney Ponson to escape a jam with runners at first and second, it led to Cleveland Indians manager Charlie Manuel's third ejection of the season - all against the Orioles - and marked a successful argument by Orioles manager Mike Hargrove.
With Travis Fryman at second base and Wil Cordero at first, Sandy Alomar lofted a pop fly into shallow left field. Mora retreated while both Indians base runners and Alomar assumed an infield fly would be called.
Hearing nothing, Mora allowed the ball to fall untouched.
"I heard nothing from nobody," said Mora. "I expected to hear the call. There was no chance for the runner from first to go to second or the runner at second to go to third."
Mora quickly retrieved the ball and threw to Jerry Hairston covering second base. Hairston stepped on the bag to force Cordero and tagged Fryman for the second out.
Alomar barely moved from the batter's box, giving Ponson time to take the ball from Hairston and, after a delay, fire to first for the third out.
Manuel argued heatedly with crew chief John Shulock, who told him he was following the ball and was unaware of Mora's position on the field.
"It's my call, and I felt in my judgment he could not have caught the ball with ordinary effort, just like the rule says," said Shulock. "He just missed the ball."
Replays showed Mora camped beneath the ball. Hargrove appeared to influence the decision after Shulock momentarily placed Alomar at first base.
"They were initially going to let Sandy stay at first base and call it a double play, but Sandy never touched first base," Hargrove said.
The triple play was the 12th turned in Orioles history and the first since Aug. 25, 1992, vs. the California Angels.
2 arrive as 8 promoted
The Orioles announced yesterday the promotion of six players from Triple-A Rochester effective Tuesday, at the conclusion of the International League season.
Outfielders Eugene Kingsale and Karim Garcia beat the rush yesterday. Kingsale was rewarded for his determined rehabilitation from a torn quadriceps suffered last spring while Garcia was recognized for a productive year at Triple-A following his acquisition from the Detroit Tigers.
On Tuesday, the Orioles will promote third baseman Ryan Minor, left-handed pitcher John Parrish, infielder Ivanon Coffie, catcher Willie Morales, infielder Jesse Garcia and right-handed pitcher Luis Rivera. All except Rivera have appeared with the Orioles this season.
Rivera was obtained from the Atlanta Braves in a July 31 trade for B. J. Surhoff and Gabe Molina and recently returned to action following a bout of shoulder tendinitis. Hargrove projects Rivera will fill a bullpen role this month, though some within the front office believe Rivera can eventually challenge for a berth in the rotation.
Parrish is scheduled to start for Rochester tomorrow, then return to the Orioles, where he may rejoin the rotation.
Kingsale, once projected as the heir to Brady Anderson in center field, was believed lost for the season when he suffered the quadriceps tear. But his aggressive rehabilition enabled him to play five games for the Orioles' Gulf Coast League affiliate before making two starts at Rochester. The switch-hitter continues to mature physically and is no longer seen as a mere slap hitter.
"Nobody thought I could come back and play this year, but I was determined to get back as quickly as possible," said Kingsale, 24.
Receiving a promotion to the major leagues did surprise him, however. "Regardless of what anybody else thought, I knew that I was going to play this year but I didn't expect to play up here," said Kingsale, a .241 major-league hitter in 87 at-bats over three seasons.
Kingsale last year played in the Arizona Fall League but he plans to play for Estrellas of the Dominican Winter League after the season. Garcia, added to the 40-man roster Thursday, made $700,000 this year playing at Rochester, where he hit .278 with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs in 76 games.
Garcia is ineligible to play until Monday in Minnesota while serving a three-game suspension for his part in an April 22 fight with the Chicago White Sox.
The most notable omission from the announced callups was right-handed pitcher Leslie Brea, an emergency starter for the Orioles who used his Aug. 13 Orioles debut as a forum to announce he was 26 instead of 21, as the club had previously thought.
Infielder Carlos Casimiro, summoned to make two appearances with the Orioles earlier this summer, and Bowie third baseman Jose Leon, who is not on the 40-man roster, were the most notable position players not promoted. The Orioles will carry four catchers and 15 pitchers the last month.
Around the horn
Indians leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton scored the game's first run to extend his personal streak to 18 consecutive games with at least one run. ... The Orioles' 13-game road trip that began last night is the team's longest since a 13-game tour July 30-Aug. 11, 1996. That trip began with the Orioles at 51-52 but began a 37-22 tear that carried the Orioles to the AL wild card. ... Orioles relievers have converted 15 of their 18 save chances and are 8-3 since June 27.