Riley has solid start, escapes injury to hand


Hard bouncer hits pitcher

`it doesn't hurt at all'


March 21, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. - Orioles pitcher Matt Riley lowered his ERA yesterday and raised concerns about a possible injury that didn't materialize.

Riley left his start against the St. Louis Cardinals with two outs in the fifth inning after a hard bouncer from Albert Pujols slammed off his bare hand and rolled to second baseman Brian Roberts, who recorded the out. Riley reached back while attempting to make a play and fell on the mound.

Manager Lee Mazzilli said Riley's pitch count determined whether he would stay in the game or head to the showers.

"He was fine," Mazzilli said after a 4-3 loss. "No use keeping him out there. We wanted to take him out on a good note."

Said Riley: "My [index] finger is fine. It doesn't hurt at all. I wanted to finish that inning, but I was at my pitch count. That's my first time going five innings and you're going to feel that. Maz saw I was laboring a little bit."

Given another chance to stick out his hand, Riley might not be able to fight the temptation.

"Honestly, I can't help it," he said. "I see that ball going up the middle, and you want to do anything you can to stop it from going into center field. [Mike] Matheny hit one like that earlier in the game and I did the same thing, but I didn't touch it."

The Cardinals trailed 2-0 in the fourth before Matheny singled with two outs to score Edgar Renteria. They added an unearned run in the fifth after Riley left when third baseman Jose Bautista booted a grounder from Greg Vaughn.

Riley, who threw three shutout innings against the Minnesota Twins on Monday, was charged with one earned run. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out three - leaving his ERA at 3.86 in 11 2/3 innings.

"It feels good when you're able to go out there and make quality pitches to quality hitters," he said. "I took it personally when I faced Pujols. That guy's one of the best hitters in the game, so you definitely want to do your best against a guy like that."

Riley made his first start after three relief appearances. Left-hander Omar Daal, also vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, pitched yesterday in a minor league game in Fort Myers, Fla., and gave up six runs (three earned) in five innings.

The Orioles aren't committed to sending Riley to Triple-A Ottawa if he doesn't make the rotation. They are willing to use Riley or Daal out of the bullpen.

"Whoever's in that spot could be your long guy, your middle guy, and also be that spot starter," Mazzilli said. "[Riley] can definitely do that."

Gibbons cuts right hand

Jay Gibbons left yesterday's game with a bruise and small cut on his right hand after being hit by a Matt Morris pitch in the first inning. Jack Cust replaced him in right field.

Gibbons couldn't return because the cut required a bandage. He might play today against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Lauderdale.

This is the second time Gibbons has been hit in the right hand, which no longer has a hamate bone after surgery three years ago.

Meanwhile, outfielder Larry Bigbie is expected to return today after missing six games with a strained left groin muscle.

While Bigbie stayed back in Fort Lauderdale, B.J. Surhoff started in left field and singled to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Bigbie said he has been running the past few days and could have played.

David Segui started at first base after reporting that the stiffness had eased in his left wrist. His single in the first increased the lead to 2-0.

Ramsay makes trip

Rob Ramsay made his first spring road trip, though he didn't appear in the game.

Ramsay, who had a brain tumor removed in January 2002, traveled to Jupiter as an emergency pitcher. He would have been used only if the Orioles ran short of arms.

Any opportunity is embraced.

He was listed on the clubhouse bulletin board as an available pitcher Friday for the first time since the Orioles signed him to a minor league contract. Mazzilli said Ramsay will pitch this spring.

"I will get him in a game," Mazzilli said. "He deserves it, with what he's done and what he went through."

Around the horn

Pitcher Denny Bautista has been sent to the minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla., and will take his physical today. Bautista's arrival was delayed because of visa problems in the Dominican Republic. ... The Orioles added two pitchers from Sarasota - left-handers Sean Spencer and Joe Rodriguez. Mazzilli said their stay in camp is day to day. "Obviously, our main guys here need to get their work in," he said.

Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

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