Odd man out, Riley still even-tempered

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Knowing it's temporary, he accepts bullpen role

Cordova suffers setback

Notebook

May 04, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

A few years ago, Orioles pitcher Matt Riley would have bristled at the club's decision to take him out of the rotation, even on a temporary basis. Humility wasn't one of his strengths.

But Riley said he understands why manager Lee Mazzilli put him in the bullpen after Sunday's rainout in Cleveland. And if he stays out of the rotation until May 15, when the club needs a fifth starter, he'll accept his new role without complaint.

"This is a team thing. This isn't a Matt Riley thing," he said. "Maybe when I was 20 years old I would have taken it personally and gotten [angry]. But I've got to help out."

Mazzilli is skipping Riley, 24, because of open dates Thursday and Monday. He wants to keep the other rookie left-hander, Erik Bedard, on a regular schedule, making Riley the odd man out.

"If we had stayed with our rotation as is, guys would have went out on seven days' [rest]. That's just not good, putting a whole five-man staff on seven days' because we have those two off-days coming up," Mazzilli said. "We can go probably at least two starts with [Riley] in the 'pen. And he can go long if need be, so we can stretch him out a little bit."

Said Riley: "He explained to me how they've got to get some guys back on track. I understand. Whatever's going to help this team, I have to do. I saw today our bullpen's thrown 91 innings. That's a lot for the first month of the season."

Riley hasn't pitched in relief since 2000 with Double-A Bowie. Of his 123 professional appearances, 116 have been as a starter.

"It's going to be a little different," he said. "I talked to Maz about it today. It's something I don't have a problem doing."

Rodrigo Lopez has allowed one run in 19 2/3 relief innings, making it possible that he'll take Riley's spot in the rotation later this month.

"Right now, the way I'm looking at it, Riley's going back in there," Mazzilli said. "[But] something else may happen in those two weeks. Someone else may get hurt."

Asked if he likes Lopez more in a relief role than as a starter, Mazzilli said, "Well, he's done a great job in the role that he's in now. He's very valuable that way.

"I know that he wants to start. I understand that. I want to continue that thought process if that's what he wants to do. What's going to happen down the line, I can't answer that because I don't know."

Elbow pain shelves Cordova

Outfielder Marty Cordova has been pulled from his assignment at extended spring training because of pain in his surgically repaired right elbow, increasing the possibility that he won't play this season.

Cordova will be examined this week by Dr. Lewis Yocum, who performed ligament-reconstructive surgery on his elbow Aug. 27.

Placed on the 15-day disabled list this spring, Cordova was healthy enough to hit against minor league competition in Florida. The Orioles weren't going to activate him until he could throw and play the outfield, and they shut him down this weekend.

Cordova appeared in only nine games last year, batting .233 with one homer and four RBIs. His three-year contract expires after the season.

Hairston getting closer

Within the next few days, the Oriole are expected to assign second baseman Jerry Hairston to one of their minor league affiliates as the next step toward putting him on the active roster.

Hairston, who broke the knuckle on his right ring finger March 4, had three hits Sunday in an extended spring training game. He's been playing in the field, another sign that the finger has healed.

"His hand feels good," Mazzilli said. "We're stretching out his innings."

O's acquire Chen

Looking to upgrade their pitching at Triple-A, the Orioles acquired left-hander Bruce Chen from the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday for a player to be named. He's expected to report to Ottawa today.

The deal was rumored over the weekend, but the Orioles said it didn't become official until yesterday. The Blue Jays apparently had to wait for pitcher Josh Towers to clear waivers and be assigned to Triple-A Syracuse before they could move Chen, 26, who's joining his ninth organization since 1998.

Chen was 0-1 with an 8.71 ERA in 10 1/3 innings at Syracuse. He allowed 17 hits, including four home runs.

Once considered a top pitching prospect with the Atlanta Braves, Chen hasn't stayed in the same organization for an entire season since 1999. He's 20-19 with a 4.59 ERA in 155 major league games.

He's also pitched for Philadelphia, the New York Mets, Montreal, Cincinnati, Houston and Boston.

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