Those in control give wild Riley a 3rd start

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Early shutdown overruled

Mussina shuns Oct. 3 start on short rest

Surhoff at 202

September 26, 1999|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON -- Manager Ray Miller's initial inclination to shut down 20-year-old Matt Riley after Thursday night's troubled 4 2/3 innings apparently was overruled by general manager Frank Wren. Miller said yesterday that Riley will start Thursday against the New York Yankees on six days' rest.

Since being promoted from Double-A Bowie on Sept. 6, Riley has made two starts, receiving a decision in neither while also exhibiting a reluctance to throw the changeup that persuaded club officials to promote him.

Alluding to Riley's control problems, Miller said, "That'll be a test of his control because that team doesn't chase pitches."

Friday, Miller said: "[Riley] felt something in his back yesterday and he's walked 11 in I don't know how many innings [7 1/3] and his velocity is down. We've accomplished what we wanted. We wanted him to see what it's all about."

Miller attempted to further the rookie's education Friday night with Mike Mussina and Bret Saberhagen pitching. At one point he approached the left-hander and suggested he watch the clinic intently. In a 1-0 classic, the two right-handers walked a combined two against 16 strikeouts in 13 innings.

"A young kid should look at those guys and just drool," Miller said. "You don't have to mimic anybody, but just observe how they go after hitters."

Miller added that he will allow Mussina to make the call on whether he pitches the Oct. 3 season finale on three days' rest. If so, it likely won't happen.

"I really don't see what there is to gain at this point," Mussina said. "It's been a long season."

Mussina raised his record to 17-7 Friday and will start Wednesday against the Yankees. On Friday, he was lifted from a shutout after six innings and 88 pitches after complaining to Miller of fatigue after the fifth.

Hit machine marches on

Left fielder B. J. Surhoff contributed two of the Orioles' four hits yesterday, moving him within nine hits of Cal Ripken's single-season club record of 211 hits. Surhoff leads the team with 43 multi-hit games and ranks as only the third player in club history to crack 200 hits in a season.

Surhoff appears to be recovered from a season-worst 2-for-23 slump that frustrated him for six games from Aug. 26-Sept. 1. Since, the left fielder is hitting .315 (28-for-89).

Miller called Surhoff's 200 hits "remarkable" and attributed much of his career season to a rugged off-season conditioning program.

"B. J. deserves every bit of success he's had this year," Miller said. "He's worked his tail off."

O's mirror Belle's season

This season's epitaph will maintain that a ruinous start by the starting rotation led to an overworked bullpen, a 6-16 April and ultimately a first-half hole so deep that it could not be overcome even with a 40-25 start to the second half. However, the Orioles' success also has closely mirrored that of their $65 million right fielder, Albert Belle.

A self-confessed second-half hitter, Belle had hit in 21 of 22 games this month for a .435 average (37-for-85) with 13 doubles, seven home runs and 26 RBIs before going 0-for-3 yesterday. At the same time, the Orioles were 18-4, which would represent the second-highest win percentage for any month in club history.

During the Orioles' ruinous 21-36 start that left them 12 games off the AL East lead, Belle batted .250 with three doubles, 10 home runs and 35 RBIs in 208 at-bats. On the next night he sparred with Miller in the dugout after his average had fallen to .244.

Despite yesterday's loss, the Orioles are 55-42 since June 8. Belle has smashed 32 doubles, 26 home runs and 78 RBIs in 375 at-bats in that span.

O's to open 2000 vs. Indians

According to the American League's preliminary schedule, the Orioles will open next season on April 3 against the American League Central champion Cleveland Indians. The six-game homestand includes an April 4 off day, two more games against Cleveland, then a three-game series with the Detroit Tigers.

May makes an impact

Miller gave Derrick May another start yesterday, his third in as many games. May played right field in Game 2 of Thursday's doubleheader and hit a three-run homer off Oakland's Omar Olivares. As the designated hitter Friday, he provided the only run with a fourth-inning single.

May's numbers against Boston starter Ramon Martinez -- 9-for-24 with two homers and seven RBIs -- demanded the start. But Martinez got the best of him yesterday, keeping May hitless in three at-bats.

"He's very comparable to Harold Baines in that he's a veteran left-handed hitter who uses the whole field, he has power and he's going to take a walk if he has to," Miller said. "And he's a little bit more usable because he can play some positions. He's a first-class person, too."

May's contract was purchased from Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 21. He had been signed by the Orioles on June 3 after playing for Monterrey of the Mexican League.

Around the horn

The Orioles' 10-game road win streak was the second-longest in club history, falling shy of the 11-game run in 1978. Until yesterday the Orioles had not suffered a road loss since Aug. 28 in Detroit. Ramon and Pedro Martinez became the first brothers to win games with Boston in the same season. The only other brother combination to win games with the Red Sox was Tom Hughes (1902-03) and Ed Hughes (1905-06).

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