Mora happy in Baltimore

THE BALTIMORE SUN

On a day when he helped broker a talk that led to Miguel Tejada's backing off his trade demand, Orioles All-Star third baseman Melvin Mora also left little doubt as to where he wants to end his career.

Mora, 33, who is in the last year of his contract, reiterated at yesterday's FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center that he would like to sign a contract extension that will allow him to retire as an Oriole.

"I want to stay here," said Mora, who hit .283 last season and led the Orioles with 27 home runs while making a second consecutive All-Star Game appearance. "I love it here. Let's try to get it done. If not, we'll have to wait another year."

The Orioles and Mora's agent have had preliminary talks about an extension. Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said yesterday that the club's goal is to build from within and to retain productive players who "want to be here."

However, Mora has no interest in negotiating an extension during the season, so the Orioles will likely have to sign him before spring training ends or risk losing him to free agency.

"When the season starts, I don't like thinking about contracts," Mora said. "You have four months of the offseason to do that. ... I am thinking about trying to make this team win."

Mora has outperformed his previous contract, a three-year, $10.5 million deal signed before the 2004 season. He is in line for a nice raise, but he didn't rule out giving the Orioles a hometown discount either.

Attendance up

Despite message board and airwave talk about a boycott of this year's FanFest because of the Orioles' eight straight losing seasons and no big-name additions this offseason, approximately 10,000 people showed up at the event, about 2,000 more than last year, according to Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka.

Through 6 o'clock last night, the club also sold 98,000 individual game tickets, a total also up from last season, according to Stetka.

None of the Orioles' new additions, except coaches Leo Mazzone and Lee Elia, were in attendance. Second baseman Brian Roberts, who maintained again yesterday that his elbow is improving and he'll be ready for Opening Day, was easily the star attraction, as he needed to be escorted by a police officer everywhere he went around the convention center.

The atmosphere was relatively positive, aside from a few instances during a fan forum with Flanagan and the Orioles' front office in which fans expressed their frustration with the club.

Defending the O's

Perlozzo defended his players in the face of criticism because only one current Oriole - Mora - showed up at the memorial service for longtime coach Elrod Hendricks.

"I think it's a little unfair," the Orioles' manager said, noting that most of his players were out of the country. "We had over 1,000 people there. I thought it was a great thing for Elrod. We miss Elrod. That's the bottom line. The rest of the stuff just takes away from our grief and our loss."

Around the horn

After reports that the Orioles were close to landing Chicago Cubs outfielder Corey Patterson for a minor leaguer, several teams contacted the Cubs and got into the mix. The Orioles are no longer the favorites. ... The Orioles also are still talking with the agent for free-agent outfielder Richard Hidalgo and at least are considering using him in center field.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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