Riley knows he's bound by his margin for error

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

He has to prove himself, not just strengthen arm

March 23, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Sitting at his locker before yesterday's pre-game workout, Orioles reliever Steve Kline overheard Matt Riley reveal his pitch count and innings total from Monday's start at the minor league camp and wanted to recalculate the math. He must not have heard correctly.

Eighty pitches? In three innings?

"No, 3 2/3 ," Riley said, as if the change made any difference.

Riley wore a sheepish grin on his face, knowing an extra two-thirds didn't justify such a high count.

"I didn't have a problem the first three innings. The fourth inning, I did," he said.

Riley hadn't thrown more than 46 pitches before Monday.

"I just ran out of juice," he said. "I lost my legs a little bit."

This wasn't an official exhibition game, just a chance to get in some work and stay on schedule. But it meant a lot more to someone who's trying to stick with the club as its fifth starter.

Once content to use the early games as a chance to build up arm strength and stamina, Riley understands that he must make a stronger impression or risk exclusion from the pitching staff.

He's out of minor league options and would have to pass through waivers before being sent down - an unlikely scenario - and a scout from another organization said numerous teams are expressing serious interest in Riley, including the Texas Rangers.

"Now the numbers have got to start showing up. I've had time to work on everything, and everything's got to start coming together," Riley said.

Another left-hander, Eric DuBose, opposed Riley and threw 81 pitches over six innings in his longest outing of the spring.

The Orioles still haven't named a fifth starter, though an announcement on the rotation could come within the next few days. Bruce Chen has emerged as a candidate after tossing 8 2/3 scoreless innings this spring. Riley, meanwhile, has posted a 13.50 ERA.

"We're still talking about that, myself and my staff," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "We haven't decided who it's going to be yet."

Mazzilli said there were two candidates. When asked if he meant Riley and Chen, Mazzilli said, "Maybe three."

Cummings breaks finger

Another Orioles player went down with a freak injury yesterday when outfielder Midre Cummings broke his right ring finger after slamming it against the left-field fence.

Cummings was trying to catch Luis Ordaz's long fly ball in the eighth inning. It cleared the fence for a home run. Cummings didn't.

Last week, utility infielder Chris Stynes suffered multiple fractures of his left tibia after fouling a pitch off his leg. He's expected to miss the entire 2005 season.

Retiring Rays

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays made it through yesterday's game without anyone retiring, a rarity in their camp.

Outfielders Marty Cordova and Danny Bautista and second baseman Roberto Alomar have retired since spring training began.

Manager Lou Piniella wants another left-handed hitter on the roster, and he's scrambling for a right fielder after Bautista's shocking announcement. Jay Gibbons would make sense, and it's believed the Devil Rays have contacted the Orioles about him.

Piniella chatted with executive vice president Jim Beattie for about 10 minutes during batting practice, then joked with reporters about the trade rumors.

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