Mora, Trembley say team isn't stealing signs

The Baltimore Sun

The Orioles have been prolific at stealing bases this year, ranking second in the American League. What they won't steal, or so they say, are the signs flashed by the opposing team.

Third baseman Melvin Mora and manager Dave Trembley deny that the Orioles were trying to gain an advantage on the Boston Red Sox during the fifth inning of Saturday's game - an accusation leveled against them by pitcher Josh Beckett.

The issue cropped up when Beckett circled behind the mound and said something to Mora, who stood on second base after a double while Ramon Hernandez batted. They exchanged words again after the last out, as Beckett walked to the dugout, and Orioles third base coach Juan Samuel interceded.

"I felt like if I didn't turn Melvin around and push him away, things could have gotten out of hand," Samuel said before yesterday's game. "[Beckett] thought we were relaying signs, which I don't think we are.

"He just kept going. He said whatever he said and didn't look back. Melvin was the one that, I think, if I hadn't stepped in, probably would have followed him and said some things."

Beckett, who wasn't available to comment yesterday, apologized to Mora during the next inning, and the Orioles considered the matter closed.

"I don't play that game," Mora said. "I think I was paying more attention to the fans talking to the first baseman than paying attention to the hitter.

"I've been playing for seven years straight against the Boston Red Sox, and that's never happened to me. He came to me and apologized, because everybody over there knows me. I don't play that game.

"He threw three breaking pitches to Ramon. Hello? He didn't swing at that pitch. Plus, he hit and popped out. How can you steal signs thinking Ramon's going to hit one of the curves? We should be hitting .300 if we're stealing signs. Or .340."

Trembley said he was aware of the situation as soon as Beckett stepped away from the mound. He praised Samuel for defusing the situation before it could escalate.

"We don't play that kind of game, and if we did, we wouldn't make it that obvious," he said. "The way Beckett was throwing, I don't even think it would've mattered."

Beckett came within a strike of shutting out the Orioles - a feat no team has accomplished this season.

"I didn't really gather that it was an issue in that situation," catcher Jason Varitek said. "I don't know what Josh said, but it's part of what you have to defend against.

"The swings didn't dictate that it was an issue."

Varitek said sign stealing, and trying to prevent it from happening, are "part of what goes on in this game."

"There are some teams that are very renowned for doing it in our league," he said. "You have to try your best to defend against it against one of those teams. Toronto is the most renowned for it, and [the New York Yankees]. There are different teams throughout the league that are predictable, whether it's location or change of speeds. It's part of the game. But to defend against it, you have to use your coconut on the mound."

Said Samuel: "It happens more than what you think. Anytime you see a pitcher step back, step off the rubber and the catcher comes in, they just assume the guy on second base is relaying signs, which most of the time they're not doing. I think they're just playing with their heads.

"For me, if you're not trying to get an edge, you're not trying. I played on teams where we started relaying signs in spring training to get ready for the season. If you don't like it, change those signs. That's nothing unusual. To me, try whatever you could do to get an edge, if you could get away with it."

Just don't accuse Mora of doing it.

"I know the pressure's coming [to the Red Sox], and the Yankees are right there. Every pitch counts. But we're going to keep playing hard. I don't care what they say," Mora said.

"I've been playing 17 years of professional baseball and I don't play that game. I don't like that, because I think that's cheating. And I know the pitcher's got to eat, too."

Note -- The three-game series drew 146,786 fans, eclipsing the Camden Yards record of 144,784, set against the Cleveland Indians from Aug. 21-23,

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