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Mora lends a hand with feet

CHICAGO — CHICAGO - No matter how many elements conspire to distract Orioles left fielder Melvin Mora, there's always the hand to occupy his thoughts and raise his concerns.

Being a first-time All-Star? Having all six children with him at the team hotel? He still worries about the hand.

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Most players want to be on the field for the majority of the game and feed the competitive beast within them. Mora didn't seem to care last night if it stayed hungry.

Mora pressed a thumb against the spot on his right palm that's been sore for almost a month. He aggravated the injury while chasing a fly ball during Sunday's game in Oakland and slamming into the fence.

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"I hope I get some rest so it can feel better," he said yesterday afternoon. "If I get a chance to have one at-bat, that's fine. It doesn't matter. But the bruise is still there. I don't want to get jammed."

The risk was eliminated when American League manager Mike Scioscia held out Mora until the eighth inning. Mora pinch ran for Garret Anderson and scored on Vernon Wells' double that reduced the National League's lead to 6-5. A two-run homer by Hank Blalock gave the American League a 7-6 win.

Mora replaced Anderson in left field in the ninth, but the AL's second-leading hitter never swung a bat.

Even so, Mora enjoyed the All-Star experience as much as he could between palm readings. His locker was situated beside Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, both voted in as starters for last night's game. He kept looking around the room, soaking in as much detail as possible while trying to blend with his more high-profile teammates.

"It's been crazy but fun," he said. "I've gotten to know a lot of people. It's great."

The quintuplets celebrate their second birthday July 28, three days before the non-waiver trade deadline. He remains one of the Orioles' most marketable players, and contending teams want him.

"It's something I can't control," Mora said. "When you have a good relationship with the Orioles, and you have your family there, it's hard if you have to go somewhere else. But it's a business."

His desire to stay with the Orioles is so strong, he became suspicious of AL coaches and players who greeted him the past two days. Maybe there's more to worry about than the hand.

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"They say 'Hello, how are you doing?' I say, 'Fine,' but I'm thinking, 'Don't tell me hello too much, OK?' I can't imagine myself with any other team, but sometimes you have to walk away."

Brief flight for Rocket

The New York Yankees' Roger Clemens pitched in his last All-Star Game, entering to light applause in the third inning and striking out two batters. Then he was gone.

Hardly worth the fuss.

Clemens was a late replacement for Barry Zito after the Oakland Athletics decided they didn't want their left-hander appearing in the game. He threw eight scoreless innings against the Orioles on Sunday, and team officials wanted him to rest.

Getting Clemens to Chicago proved a difficult task because of Hurricane Claudette.

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Notified Sunday morning of his inclusion on the AL roster while relaxing on his lake property near Houston, he rushed to catch a flight out of College Station, about 90 minutes away.

"I didn't think we'd be coming just for the fact that we couldn't get a plane through that weather," he said. "It was our jet. They couldn't get into Houston. They just said, 'You've got to get to College Station by noon or it's a no-go.' The winds were extremely heavy."

Only one member of his family was disappointed about cutting their vacation short because of the game: 7-year-old son Cody. "He kind of sighed," Clemens said, "took a deep breath, looked at me and said, 'Dad, why can't they get Andy Pettitte?' "

Helton retains power

This time, nobody can credit the thin air. Such an explanation would be even more transparent.

Removed from the advantageous hitting environment in Colorado, Rockies first baseman Todd Helton proved last night that he can homer in any ballpark. If solid contact is made, the ball will soar.

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It just seems to jump off his bat more regularly at Coors Field, which places him in a fairly large fraternity of players.

Helton hit a two-run shot off Seattle Mariners reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa in the fifth inning that gave the NL a 2-1 lead. No Colorado player had homered in an All-Star Game before him.

Boones happy together

Informed over the weekend that he was chosen to represent the AL in last night's 74th All-Star Game, Seattle Mariners second baseman Bret Boone said he experienced a rush of excitement.

His knees didn't truly wobble, however, until Boone learned that his younger brother, Aaron, was selected as a reserve for the NL.

"I was more excited for Aaron," Boone said, "because it's his first one."

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As a player, that is.

Their father, Bob Boone, was an All-Star catcher in 1979. The boys, then 10 and 6, attended the game in Seattle and shagged fly balls in the Kingdome outfield.

"I've had a pretty special life," said Bret, who made his third All-Star appearance last night. "I had a very fortunate upbringing. I got to do things other kids could only dream about."

The same goes for his father. As Cincinnati's manager, Bob Boone had the privilege of telling Aaron, the Reds' third baseman, about his inclusion on this year's All-Star team. He couldn't fight back the tears, an unusual circumstance for someone who's normally so stoic.

"When he called me into his office, that was a pretty emotional moment for him," Aaron said. "He is very low key and doesn't show a lot of emotion. Any time you get that out of him, it takes you back."

Defending their presence

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For some players, the only All-Star numbers they possessed were located on their backs.

New York Mets closer Armando Benitez, a former Oriole, has blown a career-high seven saves in 28 chances. He totaled 10 in the first half during his first eight seasons.

Maybe it's something about late-inning relievers. Pittsburgh's Mike Williams has a 6.44 ERA, and opponents are batting .283 against him. Tampa Bay's Lance Carter has three losses, a 4.05 ERA and a serious identity problem.

How many fans would recognize him, and that includes the few who venture inside Tropicana Field? Major League Baseball requires that every team be represented so Benitez, Williams and Carter are here. So is Detroit outfielder Dmitri Young, but at least he's a little more credible with a .283 average and 18 homers.

"I'm just taking advantage of [the rule]," he said.

Said Williams: "It's always been that way, and it always should be that way."

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Foulke back as an All-Star

Playing the game at U.S. Cellular Field gave Keith Foulke a chance to pitch in Chicago again, returning to the city as an All-Star after the White Sox traded him during the winter.

It didn't allow him to gloat.

"I'm not out to make anybody look bad," said Foulke, who was swapped for Oakland closer Billy Koch. "I don't want to make anybody look like they made the wrong decisions. I know I got the better end of the deal. I'm here and I'm an All-Star."

Around the horn

Seattle pitcher Jamie Moyer, 40, was the second-oldest first-time All-Star after St. Louis Browns pitcher Satchel Paige, who was 46 in 1952. ... Former Orioles shortstop Luis Aparicio (AL) and Gary Carter (NL) served as honorary captains.

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Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.


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