TORONTO - Four years later, Orioles left-hander Matt Riley will return to a big league mound today, a little older and a little wiser, but no less determined.
Riley, 24, will start against the Toronto Blue Jays at SkyDome in his first major league appearance since Sept. 30, 1999.
"I'm definitely excited," Riley said yesterday. "It's a big opportunity to show what I can do. I'm not nervous. I've been through it before."
Four years ago, Riley went 10-6 at Double-A Bowie, inspiring the Orioles to give him a September promotion. He became the 10th-youngest pitcher in franchise history to make his major league debut, at 20 years and 39 days old, and it wasn't pretty.
He made three starts with the Orioles, getting three no-decisions and posting a 7.36 ERA. He went back to the minors the next season and struggled before undergoing Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery in his left elbow in September 2000.
But Riley finally put it all together again this year. He started at Bowie and made the successful climb to Triple-A Ottawa, going 9-4 with a 3.34 ERA at the two stops combined.
In his final start for Ottawa, in the International League playoffs, Riley tossed seven innings against Pawtucket without allowing a hit.
"I think going to Triple-A and being able to have success there was a big key for me," Riley said. "I've been preparing myself for this moment, both mentally and physically."
Hargrove answers Towers
When Blue Jays pitcher Josh Towers unleashed a slew of criticism at the Orioles on Friday, he seemed to direct most of it at the team's former vice president of baseball operations, Syd Thrift.
But Orioles manager Mike Hargrove defended the club yesterday.
On Towers' point that he never received a courtesy call when the Orioles granted him free agency last October, Hargrove said, "No player in the history of baseball has gotten that phone call from a front office."
And on Towers' claim that the Orioles never knew he was pitching with pain in his forearm last season, Hargrove said, "He should have said something to somebody. We asked him point-blank. That's one of the first things you do [when a pitcher loses velocity]."
Caution with DuBose
Eric DuBose has shown the Orioles pretty much all he needs to show them this season, and Hargrove said the club is considering cutting back on how much they use him the rest of the way.
DuBose, a 27-year-old rookie, has pitched eight innings in each of his past three starts, solidifying his chances to make the 2004 starting rotation. But he has thrown 170 innings this season, including 114 at Ottawa, and at this point, there's not much more he can prove.
A first-round draft pick with Oakland in 1997, DuBose missed all of 2001 and half of 2002 recovering from surgery to repair the labrum and rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder.
In 14 games with the Orioles this year, including seven starts, he is 2-5 with a 3.83 ERA. Hargrove said he and pitching coach Mark Wiley plan to meet with vice presidents Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan to decide how much more DuBose should pitch.
Matos still hobbled
Orioles center fielder Luis Matos had to leave Friday's game with a strained left hamstring, and he was still pretty sore yesterday, so it could be a few days before he returns to the lineup.
"I was playing with it for two weeks, and it was starting to get better," Matos said. "But [Friday] it got worse. The turf doesn't help anything. We're going to give it a few days and see how it feels."
Around the horn
Orioles reliever Rick Bauer had an MRI exam on his right shoulder last week, which showed some inflammation in the rotator cuff but no structural damage. He last pitched on Aug. 29, but if the shoulder continues to feel better with rest, he may get more innings before season's end. ... Greg Myers' first home run of the game gave the Blue Jays 28 inside-the-park homers in their 27-season history. ... K.C. & the Sunshine Band will perform outside Camden Yards after next Sunday's game between the Orioles and Blue Jays, culminating fan appreciation weekend.