Pitching prospect Riley to join Orioles on Sunday

First start scheduled for next week vs. Twins

September 03, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Left-handed pitcher Matt Riley, considered the Orioles' top prospect and a possibility for next season's starting rotation as a 20-year-old, will be promoted from Double-A Bowie on Sunday, the Orioles announced last night.

General manager Frank Wren admitted the decision represents a shift in organizational thinking that initially projected Riley as participating in the Arizona Fall League. Instead, Wren says the thought of Riley beginning the 2000 season in Baltimore has become increasingly plausible, thus making his promotion more practical.

"I think if we believe he has any chance of being in our rotation next year coming out of spring training that this will be a big boost for him," Wren said. "That's the crux of the decision."

Riley will make his first major-league start Thursday in Minnesota against the Twins. The turn would have fallen to Mike Mussina, but the team's ace continues to recover from a line drive that struck his pitching shoulder Aug. 22. Wren said Riley will likely make his Camden Yards debut on Sept. 14 against the Oakland Athletics.

"We felt that once he had the weapons to come to the big leagues the emphasis shifts to getting him comfortable up here," added Wren, who notified Riley yesterday afternoon. " It goes along with a lot of things. But we've really got to start looking toward the future."

Wren said the decision was finalized only after Riley exhibited increased command of his curveball and change-up in recent starts. The development of Riley's change was considered most important. Wren said he sought input from director of player personnel Syd Thrift, director of player development Tom Trebelhorn, assistant director of player development Don Buford, scouting director Tony DeMacio and special assistant Fred Uhlman Sr. in what he called "a very big decision It's not a decision that we take lightly."

Riley, who turned 20 on Aug. 2, signed with the Orioles on May 28, 1998 only 15 months ago after being made the club's third-round selection in the 1997 amateur draft. Last night's announcement culminates Riley's tear through the organization which began at Single-A Delmarva last season and progressed this year at Single-A Frederick before being promoted to Bowie in May. Riley was 3-2 with a 2.61 ERA in eight starts at Frederick; he is 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 125 strikeouts at Bowie and will make a final start tomorrow at Akron.

In the most anticipated arrival of an Orioles pitching prospect since Mussina debuted July 31, 1991, Riley will join the Orioles in Baltimore on Sunday.

"We thought he could be here next year and it would be a good idea to bring him in and let him pitch," said manager Ray Miller. "But I'm certainly not going to let him go out there and throw 130 pitches."

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