Notes: Mora 'really close' to extension

Notes: Mora 'really close' to extension

WASHINGTON -- Melvin Mora had a very busy first day back north. Before taking a 40-minute bus trip to RFK Stadium for the Orioles' exhibition game with the Washington Nationals, Mora spent about two hours with O's owner Peter Angelos to discuss a contract extension.

After meeting with Angelos, Mora said that he was nearing agreement three days before his self-imposed deadline.

"We're getting close," he said. "We're really close."

Mora did not talk specifics with Angelos, leaving that to agent Lon Babby, but the third baseman said he was impressed after his first extended talks with the owner.

"He's hungry to win," Mora said. "He really cares. He's really serious. I love to know my boss."

Babby, when reached before Friday night's game, declined to comment about the negotiations.

Mora would like a three-year extension, and he has long said that should he and the Orioles not reach agreement in time for Monday's opener against the Devil Rays, that he would cease contract talks until the end of the season.

He seemed confident that there would be an extension by Opening Day, but he indicated by pointing to his temple that once the season starts, he would prefer to concentrate on playing rather than negotiating.

"I hope everything works out," he said.

Angelos rarely meets with players, but made an exception this time, and Mora is glad he did.

"He's smart. He's really smart," Mora said. "We talked about a lot of things. I learned a lot of things. I hope everything works out."

Backup help: The Orioles have a new candidate to back up Ramon Hernandez behind the plate. They picked up Raul Chavez on waivers from the Houston Astros on Friday.

The 33-year-old Chavez batted .172 in 37 games with the Astros in 2005. He's played in parts of eight big-league seasons since 1996 with Montreal, Seattle and Houston.

"I understand that he's a good catch-and-throw guy," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He gives us an option as far as catching."

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The Orioles released Geronomo Gil this week, and while Eli Whiteside is still on the roster, the team was left with the prospect of using Javy Lopez, who will probably be the team's primary designated hitter, as Hernandez's backup.

Final roster moves: The Orioles now have 39 players on the 40-man roster, and 32 players on the spring roster after Friday's release of infielder Desi Relaford. Perlozzo says that should Chavez make the team, Baltimore would have to drop an outfielder.

The Orioles could trade Corey Patterson or Luis Matos, or send Nick Markakis to Triple-A Ottawa.

"We have an abundance of outfielders," Perlozzo said. "Somebody's going to get shortchanged."

Perlozzo hasn't guaranteed that Markakis, who's batting .333 this spring, will make the team, but said if he's on the roster on Monday, he'll get to play.

"I would think if he makes the club, he'd get a lot of at-bats," the skipper said.

Obviously impressed with Markakis, who's played just 33 games in Double-A, Perlozzo says the prospect's best position is right field.

Markakis made his manager's observation hold up in the sixth inning, when he threw out the Nationals' Royce Clayton trying to stretch a single into a double.

Better late than never: Lopez and Miguel Tejada elected not to take the team bus from Baltimore, and it was a bad move. They got lost while driving to Washington and circled RFK Stadium several times on Friday. Perlozzo excused them because they called and told him of their plight.

Perlozzo was happier to see an energized Tejada. He went 2-for-4 in the Orioles' 9-6 win over the Nationals, and he was robbed of a third hit by Brandon Watson's sliding catch. Tejada's spring average rose to .224 with the two-hit game.

"I was more happy to see him hit. He turned it up for us," Perlozzo said. "He was smiling when he came off the field and said to me, 'You feel better now?'"

Benson under stress: Kris Benson started and pitched four innings on Friday, allowing two runs and five hits a day after his flamboyant wife, Anna, filed for divorce.

"I'm going to be thinking about it for the next few months," Benson said. "It's just a matter of me concentrating 35 days out of the year and making the most out of those days. Then I can concern myself with my family stuff and my kids and just concentrating on just that."

Quotable: "If I remember anybody, it would be Frank Howard. He stood out. He was a little taller than I was." -- Perlozzo, on his memories of watching Washington Senators games at RFK and seeing the 6-foot-7 Howard play

Three days to Opening Day: Ryan and Ian Hendricks, sons of the late bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, will throw out the first pitch before Monday's opener against the Rays. Opening Day festivities begin at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Coming up: The Orioles host the Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards at 4:35 p.m. on Saturday. Daniel Cabrera will start for the Orioles, while Bruce Chen is scheduled to pitch some, too. Pedro Astacio will start for the Nationals.

Rich Dubroff is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.