Unwilling to play center, Mora pulls out of WBC

Updated: February 26, 2006, 6:18 PM ET
Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles All-Star Melvin Mora has pulled out of the World Baseball Classic after being asked to play center field for Venezuela, rather than third base.

Melvin Mora
Mora

"I'm an honest man," said Mora, who called Venezuela manager Luis Sojo on Saturday to inform him of his decision.

"I cannot go to that competition to try to play something I don't know how to play. I mean, I know how to play that, but it's a long time I don't play center field. I'm a third baseman. I cannot do that," Mora said Sunday.

Mora, who hasn't played in the outfield since the 2003 season, said that he would have deferred the third base position to veteran teammate Edgardo Alfonzo, 32, but he didn't think he should have to play the outfield in favor of 22-year-old Miguel Cabrera of the Florida Marlins.

Alfonzo, who plays for the Angels, has moved to second base for Venezuela.

"If it was Edgardo Alfonzo playing third base, I keep my mouth quiet," said the 34-year-old Mora, who didn't leave out the possibility of changing his mind and participating in the tournament if he was assured of playing third base.

"I respect Edgardo. I [am not saying] that I don't respect Miguel Cabrera, but I respect Edgardo because he's played a long time more than me as a third baseman. He deserves to play that position before me," Mora said.

Mora, who hit .283 last season with 27 homers and 88 RBI, also said his agent and the Orioles are negotiating an extension. He is entering the last year of his contract.

"This is not spring training," said Mora on the World Baseball Classic. "It's a big competition. And as everybody knows, I'm trying to negotiate my contract here. If I don't agree with the Baltimore Orioles, I'm going to be a free agent. But not as a center fielder -- as a third baseman. I don't have time to prepare myself to get ready for the season. I have to think about my family too."

Mora's decision leaves the Orioles with 11 players slated to participate in the next month's World Baseball Classic, including 10 members of their projected 25-man roster. The organization made a formal request to the governing body of the tournament last month, trying to get leniency with the number of Orioles selected to participate in the tournament.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press