Mora looking to fit in with Rockies
TUCSON, Ariz. – Melvin Mora knew change was inevitable this year.
He was an aging free agent to be in 2009 and wasn’t playing as much as he liked in the second half of the season and voiced his displeasure to Baltimore Orioles manager Dave Trembley.
“I got a great career in Baltimore. I never complain about that,” said the 38-year-old Mora. “But I want to try something different and see if it works for me. They’re rebuilding. I don’t want to wait three more years (to win).”
So on Feb. 5 Mora officially moved on, signing with the Colorado Rockies for $1.275 million, his lowest salary since 2002. He goes from a last-place club to one that won 92 games last season.
Mora will back up Ian Stewart at third base and see time at second base, first base, possibly shortstop and the outfield.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy said with a squad that includes Jason Giambi, whose only position is first base, “You absolutely have to have somebody on your bench that can multitask.”
Mora did plenty of that in the minors and early in his career with the New York Mets but has exclusively played third base since 2004.
“At this time in my career, it doesn’t matter,” Mora said. “I know it’s something I have to get used to, but right now, my main thing is to go playoff and to win the World Series. That’s my main thing, no matter what.”
Outfielder Jay Payton, who is in camp with the Rockies, played two years in Baltimore with Mora and is certain he’ll be an asset for Colorado.
“Melvin is an absolute great fit for this team,” Payton said. “He can do pretty much anything and everything you want him to do, so for a National League guy he’s perfect because he can give almost anybody a day off. And he’s a starter, so you’re not missing a beat by putting him out there.”
Mora hit .260 last year with eight home runs and 48 RBIs, a drop off from 2008 when he batted .285 with 23 homers and 104 RBIs.
Before signing with the Rockies, Mora had talks with several teams, including Texas, St. Louis, the Los Angeles Angels, the Mets and Seattle.
He heard positive things about Tracy from shortstop Cesar Izturis, who played with Mora last year and was with Los Angeles when Tracy managed the Dodgers.
Tracy also called Mora, explaining what his role would be with the Rockies and letting Mora know he appreciated his efforts off the field. The Gisel and Melvin Mora Foundation benefits a pediatric hospital in Baltimore where the couple’s quintuplets received care after they were born in July 2001. And Mora, who lives in the Baltimore area, also organized the Melvin Mora Foundation in 2005 to meet educational and medical needs in his native Venezuela.
Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is also from Venezuela and relishes the chance to play with Mora.
“When I was playing like Little League, he was a big star in our country,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why now I feel very excited to play with him. He was a player you always looked up to.”
NOTES: Rain prevented the Rockies from taking the field Sunday. But Tracy said the timing for inclement weather couldn’t have been better because Jason Hammel was the only pitcher scheduled to throw batting practice, which he’ll instead do Monday. … Tracy picked his pitchers for the first three exhibition games. Hammel is scheduled to start Thursday against the Diamondbacks and work two innings, followed by Franklin Morales (two innings), Rafael Betancourt, Randy Flores and Manuel Corpas (one each) and Juan Rincon (one or two). … In Friday’s split-squad games, Jeff Francis, who missed the entire 2009 season following shoulder surgery, will start and pitch two innings against the Giants followed by Esmil Rogers and Greg Reynolds (two each), Ryan Speier (one or two) and Jimmy Gobble. Ubaldo Jimenez is scheduled to start and work three innings against the Angels followed by Greg Smith (two), Matt Daley and Matt Reynolds (one each) and Matt Belisle (one or two).
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