Riley hits books, not travel circuit

All-Stars, Pan Am passed to further Bowie education

Minor League Baseball

August 02, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The teen-age years end today for Matt Riley, who celebrates his 20th birthday on a day off for the Double-A Bowie Baysox.

Now, the climb to the majors turns even more serious for the Orioles' most prized pitching prospect.

Riley eschewed the Pan American Games and the Double-A All-Star Game and threw only one pitch in the Futures Game in Boston because he wants his minor-league education to continue unabated.

"I just didn't feel it was best to get caught up in all those things," Riley said. "I felt it was better to stay here and work with Schmitty [Baysox pitching coach Dave Schmidt]. With the Pan Am team, I'd have gotten two starts; here, I'll get four. At this point, the more work the better."

Riley, a left-hander with a monster curveball and a golden arm, is clearly on the fast track. He devours every tidbit he can about his craft and opposing hitters, and he has become a completely different pitcher from the one who tore through the Single-A South Atlantic League (1.19 ERA, 136 strikeouts in 83 innings, no home runs allowed) last season at Delmarva.

"He's learned a lot of things here," said Bowie manager Joe Ferguson. "Last year, he was basically a five-inning pitcher, and now he's getting into the eighth and ninth consistently. He's found out that you've got to be able to throw strikes and to try to get people out within three pitches. Now, he doesn't try to strike out anybody until he has two strikes on them.

"When Matt gets ahead of hitters and stays ahead, he is even that much more dominating than he was."

Riley said: "I've matured. I'm sacrificing strikeouts for outs. I know I have to do that to stay out there for the biggest part of the game."

Riley, who is 7-3 with a 2.65 ERA at Bowie, striking out 82 in 85 innings, has set 2000 as his goal for making the Orioles' rotation and said he is "delighted" with his progress in the organization. "Early this season [at Single-A Frederick], I kind of got knocked around a little, and maybe that was a help in disguise. I knew I had to get out and start competing. I said to myself, `It's time to rebound, Matt.' "

In lower A ball, Riley said, he often just went "fastball, fastball, curve, OK, you're out." The changeup was unnecessary. Now, he does a lot more homework.

"Up here, the hitters are a lot more experienced, and you have to study them and look for weaknesses. I do a lot of scouting on my own, even when I'm not doing the pitching chart," he said.

Ferguson said: "The whole package has just gotten better. This kid wants to learn everything, and he's a tremendous competitor. He knows how to attack."

Triple-A Rochester

A Rochester club that has been somnambulant most of the season has suddenly come alive. The Red Wings lost a 19-7 game to Charlotte, which had 13 doubles and four home runs, then won five straight and moved out of last place in the Triple-A International League North for the first time since May 16. Since the exhibition game against the Orioles on June 28, the team is 19-8 and has more wins in July (18) than in May and June combined (16). The dream infield of Calvin Pickering, Jerry Hairston, Jesse Garcia and Ryan Minor played together at home for the first time in Game 105 and won. The Wings are 4-0 overall when all four start. Doug Linton has been on fire. In July, he was 4-0 with an 0.97 ERA in five starts and twice in a row was named league Pitcher of the Week. He had 38 strikeouts and walked only five in 37 innings. Former closer Rafael Pina also picked up the tempo, permitting only two runs and striking out nine with one walk over two starts. Terry Burrows rejoined the club after rehabilitating a partial tear of the rotator cuff in Florida and threw three scoreless innings. Scott Livingstone was released and signed by the Mets' organization. Injured outfielder Jose Herrera went home to the Dominican Republic, his season finished.

Double-A Bowie

During a critical stretch, playoff contending Bowie was missing leading hitter Rick Short, who was knocked out of six games with a shoulder injury suffered in a home plate collision. Short is batting .330, fourth in the Eastern League. After a slow start, Luis Matos has warmed up. He hit four homers in nine games, batting .385 during that stretch, and raised his overall average to .252. Matos already has seven steals, though he has been with the club for only a month. The Baysox's fate will probably be determined starting Aug. 16, when they play 14 of 17 games at home, including big series with Erie and Altoona, their leading division rivals. They recently came out of a three-game losing streak, their longest of the season. Catcher Jayson Werth may be out longer than first thought. A fracture is feared in his right wrist, which was struck by a thrown ball while he dived back into third base. Carlos Medina and Cesar Devarez are scheduled to rejoin the club this week after playing for the Dominican Republic in the Pan Am Games.

Single-A Frederick

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