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Projected starter at 3B gets 3-year deal

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

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.