Projected starter at 3B gets 3-year deal

Updated: January 28, 2004, 8:11 PM ET
Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- All-Star Melvin Mora agreed to a $10.5 million, three-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, avoiding salary arbitration.

Melvin Mora
Left Field
Baltimore Orioles
96 15 48 68 6 .317

Mora enjoyed his finest season in the majors in 2003 despite seeing limited time in the second half because of injuries. He hit .317 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs in 96 games and was the Orioles' lone representative in the All-Star game.

Mora played a variety of positions in 2003, including shortstop, second base and the outfield. But he is projected as the Orioles' starting third baseman in 2004, replacing departed free agent Tony Batista.

Mora received a $1 million signing bonus. He will earned $2 million in 2004, $3.5 million in 2005 and $4 million in 2006. The contract also includes up to $350,000 in available performance bonuses each season.

``It's great because I don't have to worry about arbitration, and it's more great that I'll be able to stay here in Baltimore with my family,'' Mora said.

Orioles vice presidents Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan were not available for comment.

Mora hit in 23 straight games in 2003 and led the AL in batting for much of the first half of the season.

He missed several games after being hit in the right hand by a Greg Maddux pitch in Atlanta on June 20. Mora sat out two games after being struck in the face by Anaheim's John Lackey on July 20, and was placed on the disabled list with a bruised right wrist from Aug. 5 to Sept. 2.

He ended the season by spending the last two weeks on the bench with a knee injury.

Mora became the third of five arbitration-eligible Orioles to agree to a contract, joining Jerry Hairston and Luis Matos, who settled last week. Outfielder Jay Gibbons and pitcher B.J. Ryan remain scheduled for hearings next month.

In other news, the Orioles agreed to minor league contracts with infielder Clay Bellinger and left-hander Rob Ramsay, who were both invited to spring training camp. Notes
The Orioles raised the price of thousands of lower-deck tickets for the 2004 season. The price of among approximately 6,000 field box seats jumped $10 to $45. ``Our premium seats were priced among the lower third in the major leagues, and even now they're pretty much in the lower third,'' Matt Dryer, the Orioles' senior director of advertising and promotions, said Wednesday. ``We feel the price is still very fair.'' Bleacher seats in center field jumped from $13 to $15.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press