Riley may be facing disciplinary action

Top pitching prospect reports late because of `personal problem'

March 25, 2000|By Peter Schmuck and Joe Strauss | Peter Schmuck and Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Top Orioles pitching prospect Matt Riley reported to camp late again yesterday due to a "personal problem" and could face disciplinary action from the club.

The 20-year-old left-hander, who opened spring training as a long-shot candidate for the starting rotation, is scheduled to pitch two innings today against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, but his on-field status became clouded after an incident early yesterday morning in which he apparently was thrown out of local nightclub.

"It's just a little personal problem," Riley said in a brief telephone interview last night.

Manager Mike Hargrove said that no decision had been made on Riley's appearance today, but cast doubt on whether Riley would pitch.

"This hasn't been a very good spring for Matt Riley," Hargrove said.

Riley was involved in a traffic accident earlier this spring and has been late to camp at least three times. And, according to sources, he was physically removed from a local club yesterday after becoming involved in a verbal altercation with other bar patrons.

Club officials indicated yesterday that they were investigating to determine whether there was police involvement in the incident.

Hargrove attempted to deal with Riley's punctuality problem earlier this spring by ordering him to arrive at camp by 6 a.m. every day for a week. The manager expressed disappointment yesterday that Riley apparently has not gotten the message.

"His lack of maturity seems to be manifesting itself in a lack of understanding of responsibility and accountability," Hargrove said. "Everybody goes through a maturation process. Some just have more problems with it than others.

"He had a wreck. He's been late twice. But Matt's a good kid. We need to sit down and talk about this. We want to do what we can to help this [maturation process], not retard it."

Riley arrived at the club's spring training facility yesterday well after the team bus had departed for an exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. Riley was not scheduled to make the trip, but non-traveling players are required to be in uniform by 9 a.m.

Riley was so late that many of the other non-traveling players had already completed their morning workouts and had left the camp. He approached club official Bruce Manno and pitching coach Sammy Ellis and apparently apprised them of the nightclub incident. Manno and Ellis later joined the team in Jupiter and updated Hargrove and vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift on the reason for Riley's absence.

Thrift and other club officials said late yesterday that they had not been able to contact Riley throughout the day. Riley did answer a telephone call from a reporter early in the evening. He largely sidestepped questions about the incident, but did say that he thought he still would make his scheduled appearance today. He also expressed confidence that the "personal problem" would be resolved.

Riley is considered the Orioles' most talented young pitching prospect. He came to camp with a slim chance to make the major league pitching staff out of spring training, but because of a biceps strain, he has been limited to one exhibition appearance. He is expected to open the season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, but he could come up to the Orioles later this season if he continues to develop.

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