In dubious honors, score 1 for Riley

Record book looms when injuries keep pitcher at Bowie more than expected


Minor-League Baseball

July 29, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The "honor" comes with double edges for Double-A Bowie pitcher Matt Riley.

Sure, there's something nice about holding the franchise record for career strikeouts. Riley collected No. 264 in Tuesday's 7-2 victory over Portland to pass Matt Snyder (261). But it also indicates that Riley has spent more time in the Double-A Eastern League than he ever expected.

Riley hasn't returned to Triple-A since making two starts with Rochester to open the 2000 season. He went on the disabled list with a 14.14 ERA and a strained left shoulder, reported to extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla., and finished up at Bowie.

Next came a serious elbow injury in September of the same year, followed by ligament-transplant surgery and the entire 2001 season spent rehabilitating his arm. Despite the layoff, Baseball America still rates him as the Orioles' No. 4 prospect behind injured pitchers Richard Stahl and Erik Bedard and outfielder Keith Reed, left unprotected in December's Rule 5 draft.

Scott Erickson had the same surgery a month before Riley, rehabbing with him at the minor-league camp, and made the Opening Day start for the Orioles this season. Going into the weekend, they also had the same number of losses (nine).

Riley's just happen to come on a much smaller stage.

The Orioles are more interested in Riley's continued good health and improving mechanics than in his record. They understand that pitchers coming off this type of medical procedure are better judged the second year.

They find encouragement in his increased velocity, and patiently wait for his curveball - once major-league caliber - to return to form. Until it does, Riley will have trouble improving on the 3-9 record and 6.61 ERA he took into yesterday's game. He allowed 106 hits in 80 1/3 innings, and the 11 home runs off him were tied for the team lead.

"He's getting his mechanics straightened out," said Don Buford, director of minor-league operations. "He's not showing any signs of discomfort. His velocity is coming back, but he's struggled a little with his control. He overthrows his curveball at times, and that's based on him searching for a comfort zone with his mechanics. Hopefully, he'll get that straightened out."

Buford believes the process will be accelerated with Dave Schmidt's appointment as pitching coach last week. "Schmidt knows him," he said.

Riley, who made his 17th start with the Baysox yesterday, was bearing down on two more records. His 18 career wins were tied for second with Snyder and only two behind Rick Forney, formerly of Annapolis High and Anne Arundel Community College. And his 288 2/3 innings ranked second to Snyder (290).

It almost was enough to make him forget another milestone - the 22 career losses that ranked first in Baysox history.

Triple-A Rochester

Rochester had lost 13 of its past 17 games heading into yesterday. ... You won't hear the Red Wings saying, "TGIF." They're 2-15 on Fridays. ... Outfielder Luis Garcia cleared waivers and was outrighted to Rochester, where he was playing, to make room on the 40-man roster for Chris Richard. ... Richard drove in two runs Saturday with a homer and sacrifice fly, but the Red Wings lost, 5-4, to Columbus after stranding 14 runners. ... Larry Bigbie was activated from the disabled list last week. He's spent 43 days on the DL with shoulder and ankle injuries. ... Sean Douglass, who grew stale in the Orioles' bullpen, struck out a season-high 10 batters and allowed only one hit over six innings in Tuesday's victory over Toledo. He retired 18 of 22 batters. ... Josh Towers surrendered eight runs in the second inning of Wednesday's 8-0 loss to Toledo. The Mud Hens reached him for nine hits, including two homers, in five innings. ... Manager Andy Etchebarren earned his 400th career victory last week.

Double-A Bowie

A three-game winning streak ended on Thursday when Portland defeated the Baysox, 2-0. ... Juan Figueroa, promoted from Single-A Frederick, allowed two runs and nine hits in six innings of Monday's 3-2 victory over Portland. He didn't receive the decision. ... Shortstop Ed Rogers' 11-game hitting streak ended on Friday. He kept it alive the previous night with a home run. ... Mike Paradis, the Orioles' top draft pick in 1999 when they held seven of the first 50 selections, improved to 5-10 on Wednesday. He allowed one run and struck out six in seven innings. Paradis has a 2.16 ERA in his victories and an 8.36 ERA in his losses. ... Pitcher Jacobo Sequea (1-6, 5.40 ERA) was placed on the disabled list with a strained right biceps muscle. ... Wes Rachels, who was batting .189, went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs in Wednesday's 3-2 win over Portland. ... Going into the weekend, Willy Serrano had allowed one run in his past six appearances covering 10 1/3 innings.

Single-A Frederick

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