O's pitching rotation will take turn after rainout vs. Red Sox


Ainsworth's start moved to Friday vs. Blue Jays

Riley to pitch tomorrow

April 14, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

BOSTON -- A rainout at Fenway Park last night gave the Orioles a choice: Kurt Ainsworth or Matt Riley against the Boston Red Sox? They decided to go with Riley, whose outing against the Red Sox on Thursday still rates as the team's best start of the young season.

The Orioles and Red Sox will make up last night's game later in the year -- the date is still to be determined -- which reduced this to a two-game visit.

After meeting with pitching coach Mark Wiley, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli decided to have Sidney Ponson (tonight) and Riley (tomorrow) make their scheduled starts in Boston, and push Ainsworth's start from last night to Friday in Toronto against the Blue Jays.

For Riley, who spent most of the spring thinking he was competing for the fifth starter's role, this was another sign of the team's increasing confidence in his abilities.

"It's a credit to him; [Riley] has come a long way," Mazzilli said. "But that's not taking anything from Kurt, by no means."

Mazzilli said it was a tough choice, but there were several obvious factors to consider, including the stark contrast in how the left-handed Riley and right-handed Ainsworth fared against the Red Sox last week, and Boston's continued struggles against lefties in general.

The Orioles fell apart defensively in Ainsworth's start last Wednesday, but he didn't even make it through the second inning and was charged with seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings. Besides his 37.80 ERA, he also has a Fenway nightmare on his resume, as he served up the 10th-inning, walk-off home run to David Ortiz that clinched a playoff spot for the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 23.

Riley started the fourth and final game of last week's series, and held the Red Sox to two runs (one earned) on three hits in 6 1/3 innings. The Orioles went on to win, 3-2, in the 13th on a bases-loaded walk to Larry Bigbie.

But this is also a sign that the Orioles intend to exploit a new advantage against Boston. The Red Sox don't hit left-handers very well, and the Orioles are one of the few teams in the league who have them. (Lefties Eric DuBose and Erik Bedard will pitch Saturday and Sunday in Toronto, respectively.)

Granted, it's only seven games into the season, but the Red Sox are batting .272 against right-handers and .180 against left-handers this season. Things haven't seemed to change from last season, when the Red Sox went 26-27 against left-handed starters, compared to 69-40 against righties.

At Fenway, the difference was even more staggering: 11-11 against lefties, and 42-17 against righties.

Last year's Red Sox team was an offensive juggernaut, but in Ortiz, Trot Nixon and Todd Walker, they also had three hitters who were far better against right-handers than left-handers. Now, Walker is gone and Nixon is hurt, which would seem to balance the discrepancy, but they are also missing the injured Nomar Garciaparra, who crushed left-handers last season at a .357 clip.

The Red Sox did the Orioles no favors by scheduling Derek Lowe to pitch tonight and Pedro Martinez on Thursday.

No ruling on roster snafu

A commissioner's office spokesman said a decision would likely come today regarding potential penalties the Orioles will face for recalling Bedard from Triple-A Ottawa on Saturday.

The commissioner's office voided that transaction Monday, and since Bedard pitched in Saturday's 11-3 victory over Tampa Bay, it left open the possibility -- albeit remote -- that the Orioles would have to forfeit that game.

But Orioles officials remained confident that the penalties will be no stiffer than a fine.

Raines earns promotion

The Orioles will fill Bedard's roster spot temporarily tonight by recalling outfielder Tim Raines Jr. from Ottawa. The spot had gone back to outfielder Jack Cust on Monday, when the Bedard transaction was voided, but Cust will be designated for assignment again today.

Raines, a switch-hitter, was 3-for-16 with two stolen bases in four games with Ottawa. He hit .344 in an impressive spring. In two previous stints with the Orioles, in 2001 and 2003, and he hit a combined .152 in 66 at-bats.

"He can pinch-run, and he's a guy we can use defensively," said Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie. "It's probably going to be a bench role."

The Orioles would prefer to have Raines playing every day, which is why they will likely send him back to Ottawa on Sunday, when they recall Bedard.

Walks cause concerns

Entering yesterday's play, Orioles pitchers were leading the majors with 43 walks. The biggest culprits were John Parrish (seven walks in five innings), Ponson (eight in 12 1/3 innings), and DuBose (eight in 11 1/3 innings).

"Obviously, it's a concern," Beattie said. "I think it's uncharacteristic of the guys who've had the walks. I think it's something they'll work through, and a lot of times coming up into the cold weather, guys have a tougher time holding onto the ball.

"It's going to be cold for a while, and they're just going to have to find a way to get into a rhythm and figure out how [to] throw the ball a little better. I think we saw the type of pitchers they can be in spring training."

Bobblehead dates set

The Orioles have two bobblehead giveaways this season: Rafael Palmeiro on July 7, and a dual bobblehead featuring Hall of Famers Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer on Aug. 22.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Fenway Park, Boston

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Sidney Ponson (1-0, 2.19) vs. Red Sox's Derek Lowe (1-0, 3.00)

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