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Mora brings valuable versatility to Rox

Mora brings valuable versatility to Rox

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Melvin Mora said manager Jim Tracy's recruiting pitch had him "90 percent" sure he would sign with the Rockies as a utility player.

The other 10 percent depended on his family -- his wife, Gisel, and his 8-year-old quintuplets, who live near Baltimore, which is where Mora played 2000-09. The children gave him their opinion in five-part harmony.

"They started singing, 'Let's go Rockies,'" Mora said.

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Mora was the heart of the Orioles for nearly a decade. He was invited to two All-Star Games and posted a .280 batting average while playing multiple positions with aplomb.

But the Orioles spent much of that time chasing the Yankees and Red Sox in the American League East. Mora said he thanked Orioles ownership but wanted the team to not pick up his '10 option.

Mora said Tracy called and praised him for his community work, including the Melvin Mora Foundation for medical, educational and other needs in his native Venezuela. He also gave Mora a clear idea of his role. Eventually, he signed for one year and $1.275 million.

Although the Rockies have their lineup in mind, Mora knows there is playing time for him at third base, second base, shortstop and in the outfield when players need rest. Tracy said Mora will field some grounders at first base in camp, just in case there is an emergency there.

Mora, who played mostly third base last year for the Orioles, said he had some interest as a third baseman, and there were other clubs that discussed a utility role. In the end, he wanted to win, and wanted to play in the National League. On Thursday, he arrived at Hi Corbett Field with a quintuplet of gloves, ready for anything.

"Everywhere -- I might pitch," Mora said, laughing. "I've got a good breaking pitch.

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"When you win, it's a different story. It's not only Colorado Rockies fans watching you. It's the world watching you. It's a good feeling."

Tracy said he closely watched from the early part of Mora's career with the Mets and saw him develop into a leader.

"This guy is a professional, and I respect professionals," Tracy said. "That professional veteran for me is one that absolutely loves what he does, and he's willing to reach out to younger people."

Mora, a right-handed hitter, slumped to .260 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs last year, after going .285-23-104 the previous year. But he joins left-handed power hitter Jason Giambi to give the Rockies a veteran bench. Ryan Spilborghs from the right and Seth Smith from the left are accomplished pinch-hitting outfielders, so Mora gives the Rockies someone who can handle the infield.

"We'd better kick some [butt] this year ... I didn't come here to finish second," Giambi said when reminded of the Rockies' potential bench strength. "I came here to win a championship."

Outfielder Jay Payton, who played with Mora on playoff teams with the Mets in the late 1990s, joined him in Baltimore 2007-08, and is reunited with him again with in the Rockies' camp. He said Mora could thrive with the Rockies.

"He could start 115 games giving guys rest at different positions," said Payton, who is with the Rockies under a Minor League contract. "He's got a great bat and a lot of energy. He knows how to play the game."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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