Ex-Brave Lopez throws some praise in direction of Riley


Catcher says left-hander receives his advice well


April 18, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - Considering all the top pitchers Orioles catcher Javy Lopez handled with the Atlanta Braves, he could have heaped some pretty high praise on Orioles pitcher Matt Riley this weekend.

Riley, 24, held the Toronto Blue Jays to one hit over seven innings in Friday's 11-2 victory, and Lopez was asked if the left-hander reminded him of anyone else he had caught in the past.

Lopez paused for a moment, filing through a list of one-time Atlanta left-handers that includes Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton and Steve Avery.

Instead, he picked Horacio Ramirez.

Ramirez, 24, burst onto the scene last year with the Braves, going 12-4 with a 4.00 ERA. He's done well already this year, as well, going 0-1 with a 1.29 ERA in his first two starts.

"[Riley] kind of reminds me of Ramirez, when he first came up to the bigs," Lopez said. "I give him all the advice that I could. He was a Latin player, he listened to me a lot, and he was a very successful pitcher."

Riley is doing his share of listening as well. He said he already considers Lopez a very close friend.

"When we're out there, we trust each other," Riley said. "No matter what. If he calls for a 3-2 breaking ball with the bases loaded, I'll throw it."

Roberts overcomes slump

Players go through long hitting slumps every season. But for Brian Roberts, starting the year 0-for-15 meant a difficult climb toward respectability with his batting average.

Roberts went hitless in the Orioles' season-opening homestand against the Boston Red Sox. He also jammed his left thumb sliding into second base on Opening Night, which forced him to compensate a bit.

Once the team hit the road, Roberts was fine. After stretching his streak to 16 hitless at-bats, he went 2-for-4 at Tampa Bay on April 9 and didn't look back.

Roberts, who had two doubles and two runs scored yesterday, has hit in all six games on the trip, going 11-for-28 to raise his average to .256.

"Guys like [David] Segui came up and said, `Don't let 15 at-bats ruin a whole season,' " Roberts said. "And if I had felt terrible the whole 15 at-bats, with 15 strikeouts or something like that, it would have been pretty tough to put behind you, but I didn't feel bad.

"I think I've matured a lot. I think as you continue to grow, you start to understand that it's a long season, and there's a lot of at-bats, and you try not to get too high or too low."

Another familiar face

The Orioles get a chance to face Pat Hentgen today in what promises to be a bittersweet reunion, since they were disappointed with Hentgen when he rebuffed their attempts to re-sign him last offseason.

Granted, they declined his $4 million option and tried to re-sign him for less. But they didn't stand in the way last season when Hentgen needed to reach 150 innings to trigger a $2 million bonus in his contract.

Hentgen got the bonus. He finished with 160 2/3 innings, going 7-8 with a 4.09 ERA.

The Orioles wanted him back. They figured he'd be the perfect veteran presence to complement this year's young pitching staff. But he wound up signing a one-year, $2.2 million deal to return to Toronto, the team that signed him out of high school in 1986.

Now, the Orioles aren't feeling so bad.

They like what their young pitchers have done, and Hentgen has struggled. He enters his start today against the Orioles at 0-1 with a 7.27 ERA, and both of his outings have come against the Detroit Tigers.

In 8 2/3 innings, he's given up 12 hits. His fastball reached 88 mph in his last start, but he's having a hard time locating his pitches.

Around the horn

Erik Bedard tossed a scoreless inning for Triple-A Ottawa on Friday to get himself on schedule for his next start with the Orioles, which will come Saturday against Toronto at Camden Yards. Bedard will make a full start for Ottawa tomorrow. ... Lopez has hit in all 10 games this season and 13 straight going back to last year. ... The Orioles are 5-0 this season when they score first.

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