Mora's night off no punishment, Perlozzo says

The Baltimore Sun

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo started to look at the upcoming pitching matchups three or four days ago, and decided then that last night might be a good time to rest third baseman Melvin Mora.

Perlozzo said Mora was held out of last night's lineup because he was 3-for-25 with nine strikeouts over his career against Boston Red Sox starter Curt Schilling, not for anything that happened over the previous two days. Mora made a critical error in the Orioles' loss to the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday and then compounded matters by not covering third base out of frustration, a sequence that resulted in two runs scoring.

A night earlier, he surprised his teammates by trying an unsuccessful bunt with the tying run on third base and one out in the ninth inning of a one-run game.

"I think Melvin's fine," Perlozzo said when asked whether Mora's mental errors factored in his getting the night off. "I think all of the guys go out there and make mistakes, and I'm counting on him forgetting it. That's not part of it, no."

It was Mora's first day off this season. Utility man Chris Gomez started in his place, getting his seventh start in the third different position.

"Everyone's had days off," Perlozzo said. "He's one of the guys who's been playing hard every day. I look at some numbers whenever I want to give somebody a day off and try to find one that I feel like is a good mix."

Mora has played in 140 or more games in each of the previous three seasons. His production the past couple of seasons has decreased in the second half, and team officials have discussed giving him more days off earlier in the season to keep him fresh. Mora said before the game that he didn't need a day off, but he was fine with his manager's decision.

"He said I am 3-for-20 or whatever [against Schilling] and that's why I wasn't going to play," Mora said. "He said that he feels like giving me a day off and he gave me a day off. It's the manager's decision."

Gibbons still scuffling

Mora was not the only regular out of last night's lineup. Perlozzo didn't start Jay Gibbons, the fourth time in seven games the outfielder-designated hitter was not in the lineup.

"I understand sitting against left-handers, but this is kind of new for me, sitting against a right-hander, especially a power guy," Gibbons said. "But I'll support the team and the guys in the lineup."

The first 21 games have not been easy for Gibbons, who is hitting .217 with no homers and seven RBIs. He is 0-for-his-past-12 and 2-for-his-past-21.

Perlozzo said he wants Gibbons to be able to hit his way out of the slump. But the manager also wants to keep his hottest hitters on the field, and that has meant Jay Payton has gotten four straight starts in left field and Kevin Millar has been getting most of the designated hitter at-bats.

"I talked to [Perlozzo] a little bit. He wants me to hit. I want me to hit," Gibbons said. "I told him that I have to be in the lineup to hit, but I understand that he has to go with the guys that are going well. I am just frustrated with myself and my swing right now."

Wright feels fine

A day after making a rehabilitation start for Single-A Frederick, Jaret Wright, who is on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder soreness, said he is planning to throw a side session in a couple days and should be ready to start Sunday against the Cleveland Indians.

"I always feel something," said Wright, who pitched 4 2/3 innings for Frederick, allowing one run on three hits and two walks and striking out six. "It's not like a 21-year-old shoulder. It's manageable, and if it stayed like that, I think I'd be OK."

Catcher Ramon Hernandez, who is also with Frederick on a rehab assignment, played again last night - going 1-for-4 with a double - and could rejoin the team today.

Around the horn

Army Sgt. Mark Ecker II, a bilateral amputee who was injured in Iraq and will rehabilitate at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for the next six to eight months, threw out the first pitch last night. ... Schilling's wife, Shonda, a melanoma survivor, will teach the SunWise Program to students today at her alma mater, Colgate Elementary School in Baltimore County.

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