Orioles pitcher Matt Riley is back, and so is his swagger.
After turning in another strong, five-inning performance last night in the Orioles' 2-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays before 32,381 at Camden Yards, Riley talked about how good he felt - as only he could.
The Orioles had discussed shutting down Riley for the season, to protect his surgically repaired left elbow, but that idea seemed to vanish in the vapor after his fastball registered 92-96 mph on the radar gun last night.
Riley knew the numbers. He peeked up a few times and saw them on the scoreboard.
"I saw how hard I was throwing, and I was like, `I feel that good still?' " Riley said, smiling. "I thought I'd be worn out by now, but I'm ready. And being able to pitch against New York [next weekend], that would be a great experience."
Heading into the final week of their sixth consecutive losing season, the Orioles are desperate for positive glimpses into the future. Last night they got several more.
Riley and John Parrish, two left-handers who started the year at Double-A Bowie, both dazzled against the Blue Jays, who are the second-highest-scoring team in the American League, behind the Boston Red Sox.
"I thought Riley overpowered us tonight," Toronto manager Carlos Tosca said.
"They threw some real good guys at us."
Riley allowed three hits in five scoreless innings, as no Blue Jays runner reached third base, and Parrish pitched out of a huge jam after allowing the tying run to score in the seventh.
Then in the eighth, the Orioles regained the lead, when three other twentysomethings - Luis Matos, Larry Bigbie and Jay Gibbons - strung together three consecutive singles. Back in the fourth inning, Matos hit his 11th homer off Blue Jays starter Cory Lidle (12-14) to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
With one out in the eighth and runners at first and third against Toronto reliever Trever Miller, Gibbons dropped a blooper into left field, and Matos scampered home with the go-ahead run.
Toronto's Bobby Kielty drilled a single off the right-field wall to start the ninth inning, but Orioles closer Jorge Julio retired the next three batters for his 35th save.
"It's nice to see the kids turn the corner," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "When you've got kids with that kind of ability that turn the corner, that's exciting."
The Orioles were thrilled last Sunday in Toronto when Riley returned to a major league mound for the first time in four years and came away with his first major league victory.
That day, he held the Blue Jays to two runs over five innings, with his fastball registering 90-92 mph on the SkyDome radar gun.
"I'm sure the adrenaline adds a couple extra [mph]," Riley said. "Pitching in Toronto was a good time, but it's not like pitching in front of your home crowd.
"I felt like I kind of had something to prove to the town of Baltimore because I've been kind of hiding out for the last four years, and I kind of want to show everybody that I'm back, and that I'm for real this time."
Riley, 24, had a nightmarish stint with the Orioles in September 1999, but after struggling with disciplinary issues and the major elbow injury in 2000, he is starting to make up for lost time.
And so is Parrish, 25, who got a taste of the big leagues in 2000 and 2001 but missed all last season after tearing a knee ligament during spring training.
"Johnny's got good stuff, just like Matt," Hargrove said. "They're both light-years away from where they were the last time we saw them."
Asked whether Riley will get another start, Hargrove said, "Given how strong he was tonight, and the kid wants to pitch, and he only threw  pitches, I think there's a chance we'll see him again."
With Riley at 91 pitches after the fifth inning, Hargrove turned to Parrish to start the sixth. After retiring the side that inning, Parrish gave up the tying run with a wild pitch in the seventh.
The pitch was a slider in the dirt to Blue Jays leadoff hitter Reed Johnson, which allowed Kielty to score and Chris Woodward to reach third base with two outs. Instead of folding from the disappointment, Parrish came back and struck out Johnson, ending the inning.
Parrish also got two outs in the eighth, before Hargrove turned to right-hander Kerry Ligtenberg (3-2).
"If you can pitch in Double-A, you can pitch in the big leagues," Parrish said. "I came into the season knowing that I was going to end up here, and I wasn't going to look back."