Further examination of Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora's left foot yesterday revealed a Grade I sprain that kept him out of last night's lineup and likely will force him onto the disabled list.
Though not considered serious, the injury leaves the Orioles shorthanded and compels them to bring up a player from the minors to take Mora's place. Mora projected that he would miss at least a week even if he remained on the active roster.
Team officials were considering their options last night. Aubrey Huff took ground balls at third base, where he has made two starts this season, and could share the position with Chris Gomez.
That arrangement would enable the Orioles to perhaps bring up an outfielder or a player such as J.R. House or Mike Cervenak from Triple-A Norfolk who is best suited to be a designated hitter and pinch hitter.
There's an outside possibility the Orioles would add a pitcher, but they seem more inclined to go with a position player. They had also pondered the idea of having Mora serve as the designated hitter if he was healthy enough.
"We'll make that determination later," said Mike Flanagan, executive vice president of baseball operations.
Mora underwent a magnetic resonance imaging and CT scan yesterday. He walked into the clubhouse about 4 p.m. with the results in an envelope.
"I'm glad it's not a break, but the ligament keeps bothering me," he said. "It's kind of like it goes from my feet to my head because it gives me a headache. That pain is crazy.
"I'm just glad it's nothing major and I can get it healed and then come back."
Mora injured the foot while sliding into home plate, and making the final out, in a July 1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. He pinch-hit Sunday and made his first start Thursday night, leaving after the first inning when the pain returned.
The MRI and CT scan didn't reveal a fracture or tissue damage, which would have guaranteed a lengthy stay on the disabled list.
"There's some swelling in there that we believe is related to the original contusion," Flanagan said.
Interim manager Dave Trembley already has lost shortstop Miguel Tejada and utility player Freddie Bynum, leaving him weak on the left side of the infield.
"It's kind of like the old thing we learned in Psychology 101: Is the glass half-empty or half-full?" Trembley said. "You can look at it from a negative standpoint; you can look at it from a realistic standpoint. The reality is that those guys aren't going to be able to play for a while and we're going to have to fill in. The other guys are major league players. When one door closes for somebody, it opens for somebody else."
Who's on third?
If the Orioles had tied Thursday's game and sent it into extra innings, Trembley said he would have gotten creative with his infield alignment.
Mora, Brian Roberts and Brandon Fahey were removed from the game. First baseman Kevin Millar would have moved to third, with rookie Luis Hernandez switching from shortstop to first.
"I came up as a third baseman, so you've got to be careful," said Millar, who started 12 games at third for the Florida Marlins in 2000 and 10 in 2001.
"I can pick it over there. I don't know about the arm strength anymore, but I played it in Florida. Actually, that's my favorite position on the field. I was a third baseman my whole life before I got to the big leagues."
L. Hernandez's firsts
Hernandez made his first major league start last night after collecting his first hit and RBI Thursday.
He kept a ninth-inning rally alive Thursday with a run-scoring double. He was given the ball, which he'll send to his father in Venezuela.
"He was the guy who taught me about baseball," Hernandez said.
The Orioles recalled Hernandez, 23, from Norfolk on July 7 after putting Bynum on the disabled list.
"I was really excited. I didn't think it would happen this time," Hernandez said. "I thought maybe after the minor league season."