Riley hopes side work proves he's no slouch


Left-hander tries to stop crouching during delivery


May 02, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND - To avoid another short outing today, Orioles left-hander Matt Riley has decided that he needs to stay tall.

With encouragement from pitching coach Mark Wiley and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, Riley spent two side sessions last week trying to eliminate his habit of crouching on the mound before releasing the ball, which affects his arm angle.

"I just made a couple little adjustments," said Riley, who also was rushing his delivery while throwing 93 pitches in three-plus innings of Tuesday's 7-5 loss to Seattle.

"I've got to stay tall. Sometimes I have a tendency to crouch over. I'm short enough as it is. I make myself 5-4 instead of being 6-1. That's one of the keys I've been working on."

Wiley and Hendricks noticed the flaws in Riley's delivery and have him throwing more on a downhill angle.

"If I'm crouching over, I'm not going to be able to get on top of the ball," he said. "Now, with me standing straight up, I can keep my natural arm angle and allow my stuff to do more. I was restricting myself the last two starts, trying to do too much instead of relaxing and making the same pitches that I did my first two games."

Riley had a 1.35 ERA on April 16 after holding Toronto to one run and one hit over seven innings. He's allowed 11 earned runs and 18 hits, with seven walks, in his last 7 1/3 innings.

"That's why being in the big leagues is difficult, especially for a young pitcher, because you have to be able to make adjustments as you're pitching and not after a few games," he said. "That's something I'm learning. I've got to make these adjustments immediately.

"Every lesson learned here is going to make me a better player."

J. Lopez sits again

Javy Lopez missed his second straight game with a sore oblique muscle in his right side and he might sit out the entire series, which concludes today before the Orioles return to Camden Yards.

Keith Osik made his fourth start behind the plate while Lopez rested.

"It's a little sore but it's better than yesterday," Lopez said. "To be more safe, I guess I'll take it easy this series and go home and start playing."

That plan came as news to manager Lee Mazzilli, who hadn't determined Lopez's status for today's game.

"I'm not going to take a chance on it, but we'll see how it goes tomorrow," Mazzilli said. "Strange things happen."

Lopez has been the designated hitter twice this season, but he said the arrangement wouldn't help him this weekend.

"The problem isn't catching, it's hitting," he said.

Bald statement

Darnell McDonald vowed to shave his head if he reached the majors, which explained why he walked though the clubhouse yesterday with a clean scalp and a roomful of people staring at him.

"Oh no, you didn't do that," first base coach Rick Dempsey said as McDonald headed to his locker.

McDonald said be began growing out his hair last year after injuring his right shoulder at Triple-A Ottawa. Still sporting the same look, the former first-round draft pick was promoted to the Orioles Friday and responded with a single and walk.

Proving that he's not superstitious, McDonald had Melvin Mora use the clippers on him back at the team hotel.

Asked about trusting Mora with such an important job, McDonald said, "I figured, he can't mess up a bald head."

Slumping Ponson

Mazzilli decided to wait a little while before approaching Sidney Ponson about Friday's loss, and the slump that's increased his ERA to 6.29 in 34 1/3 innings.

"Sometimes you let things go. You don't want to jump into something right away," Mazzilli said.

Take away Ponson's 88-pitch, complete-game gem against Tampa Bay, and he's allowed 20 earned runs and 27 hits in three starts covering 13 innings.

"I don't think there's anything physically wrong," Mazzilli said. "Sometimes that's a good awakening for a guy. You can't think you're just going to go out there and win every game."

Around the horn

Omar Vizquel became the 15th player in major league history to appear in 2,000 games at shortstop. ... Vizquel has 2,008 hits and nine Gold Gloves. ... The Orioles finished the month of April batting .290 in 21 games, compared with .257 in 25 games last season. The team completed its first winning April since 2000.

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