Persistent pain in hand may force Mora to go on DL

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Melvin Mora tried to grip a bat yesterday and still experienced pain in his right hand, making it more likely that the Orioles will place him on the disabled list.

Mora hasn't hit since July 27 in Toronto. He was told to rest the hand for seven days after having it examined in Baltimore the next day, but there hasn't been much improvement.

Because Mora pinch ran Thursday, a move to the DL would be retroactive to Friday.

"We'll decide sometime over the next two to three days whether or not we're going to disable him," manager Mike Hargrove said.

Mora was leading the American League in hitting, and made his first All-Star team, but a 9-for-56 slump has lowered his average to .325.

Outfielder B.J. Surhoff is eligible to come off the DL on Saturday, but the Orioles probably aren't willing to wait that long to replace Mora.

"It's something we don't want to have to do," Hargrove said, "but you don't want to sit there and play a man short."

If the Orioles bring up a player from Triple-A Ottawa, they most likely would choose Jack Cust, who hasn't received an at-bat with them in two stints.

He's a better option as designated hitter than rookie Jose Morban, who has been used in that role four times.

Cust could come up for a few days, then return to the Lynx when Surhoff is activated.

Pick one

The Orioles will need a starter to join Rick Helling for Friday's makeup doubleheader in Boston, and Hargrove must choose between left-hander Eric DuBose and Travis Driskill.

DuBose seems the logical choice because he was starting at Triple-A Ottawa until the Orioles promoted him July 22, and he'll compete for a spot in the rotation next spring. He went 2 1/3 innings last night in relief of Damian Moss but still will be available after throwing 32 pitches.

DuBose also rates the edge after his May 4 start against Kansas City, when he allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

DuBose didn't allow a run in three of his last five starts at Ottawa, going 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA in 29 2/3 innings. He was 9-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 19 starts.

Power up

When Luis Matos homered in Saturday's game against Boston, the Orioles should have expected him to do it again the next day.

Matos has hit homers in back-to-back games three times this season, including Sunday in the series finale against the Red Sox.

Despite the most recent power surge, Matos was in an 8-for-49 slump over the 11 games before last night, putting his average at a season-low .327. But he went 3-for-4, raising his average six points.

"It's going to happen. I'm going to struggle at this level," he said. "With all the road trips and all the games, they're going to get to you. You can't think about it because we've got a lot of games to go.

"I just have to get my rhythm back and see what happens. I can't say that I'm tired. I just have to keep going, keep playing."

Matos had five major league homers in 311 at-bats before this season.

Now he has nine in 258 at-bats.

"I think it's just from playing every day," he said. "The last year that I played every day, in 1999, I hit 16 [in the minors]. I'm not a home run hitter, but I can get a couple."

Bedard's first test

Left-hander Eric Bedard made his first injury rehab start with the Gulf Coast team in Sarasota, Fla., yesterday, allowing one hit and one walk in two innings. He threw 21 pitches and struck out three.

Bedard underwent ligament replacement surgery on Sept. 10, 2002.

Pitch to Erickson

If Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson tries to catch on with another team next season, one of his close friends with the San Francisco Giants is ready to campaign for him.

First baseman J.T. Snow is hopeful that Erickson, on the 60-day DL after having surgery on his right shoulder, will sign with the Giants during the winter. Snow and Erickson were teammates at the University of Arizona.

"He grew up in Sunnyvale [Calif.] and he's been a Giants fan his whole life," said Snow, who visited with Erickson last week in Cincinnati. "You never know.

"It's probably worth a try."

Erickson is in the last year of his contract with the Orioles. He's making $7.03 million this season.

"The guy is in great shape," Snow said. "He's a hard worker and it's probably been a lifelong dream. He's going to be a guy who's going to be a nonroster invitee trying to make a team."

A reunion doesn't just hinge on Erickson's signing with the Giants. Snow's contract includes a $6.5 million option for next season that the Giants likely won't exercise.

Another splash

Being a swimmer, it figures that Michael Phelps wouldn't throw a sinker.

Phelps, a Towson native who set five records at the world championships in Barcelona, Spain, threw out the first pitch last night. He lobbed the ball to Surhoff, the equivalent of a ceremonial first pop-up. But it also looked like a strike.

"Tonight I just wanted to get it over the plate," he said. "I've done it once before. I definitely didn't want to bounce it."

Phelps, 18, will compete in the U.S. Nationals this week at the University of Maryland. He holds world records in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly, and 200 and 400 individual medley.

"Everything has pretty much set in now," he said. "I just want to keep the ball rolling."

Fans attending the Aug. 17 game at Camden Yards can bid on a swimming lesson with Phelps as part of the Orioles Wives silent auction.

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