DETROIT - -It's basically what Orioles reliever Chris Ray has waited for.
His outing Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers, in which he pitched a career-high 2 2/3 innings and allowed just one hit, was probably the best he has felt since before he had Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery on his elbow in 2007.
"I felt really good," he said. "It feels kind of like I was in a zone. I didn't feel like I was going out there trying to throw as hard as I could."
It wasn't just that his elbow is fine and he's over the biceps tendinitis that sent him to the disabled list in July. It's that everything clicked Tuesday: his confidence, his stamina, his consistent arm slot.
"One of the first times this year I have actually contributed something to this team," Ray said. "Guys down in the bullpen have been getting taxed lately. It was a good feeling for me to actually give them a little bit of a breather."
Before Tuesday's game, Orioles manager Dave Trembley asked Ray whether he could throw as many as 35 pitches. He said he could. And he did.
Ray threw 34 pitches and topped his longest outing of 2 1/3 innings, which he accomplished twice in his career. He struck out two, walked one and allowed a hit. He reached 94 mph with his fastball, and his slider again featured the late bite that made him effective before surgery.
His arm slot is consistent now, he said, and, consequently, so are his pitches.
"It's something that's just been frustrating the heck out of me all year: From one day to another, I have no idea where my arm is and I have no idea where the ball is going to go," Ray said. "Now I actually feel comfortable."
Trembley said Ray will remain in a middle-relief role for now, but the goal is to get him back into the late innings of tight games.
"He's walking around today with a little bounce in his step," Trembley said. "His confidence is there; he feels pretty good about himself. That's kind of nice."
Berken to start Friday
Rookie Jason Berken, who allowed six runs in 1 1/3 innings in his last start, will get another shot at redemption. Because the Orioles did not need him to pitch in relief, Berken will take his regular turn Friday at Toronto.
He knew if he pitched out of the bullpen in either of the first two games of the Tigers series, he was out of the rotation and possibly out of the majors. So on Tuesday his heart dropped when the bullpen phone rang in the fifth, at least until he heard that Ray needed to be ready.
"I was like, 'Ohhhhh, yes,' " he joked. "It was a little nerve-racking."
Berken (1-9, 6.93 ERA) said he and pitching coach Rick Kranitz have studied video and believe he has been rushing his delivery to the plate. He hopes he has corrected the flaw and will win for the first time since his debut May 26.
"I am getting plenty of opportunities here. And it's really time for me to start performing better," Berken said. "Time for me to start putting up better numbers and get some more wins. At this point, there are no more excuses."
The day after
Rookie Brian Matusz, who won his big league debut Tuesday, said he was inundated with congratulations from well-wishers.
"I got so many messages I couldn't respond to all of them," Matusz said. "I felt bad. I usually try to get back to everyone, but it was a lot that came all of a sudden. That's a good feeling, too."
Matusz received the lineup card, the winning ball and his first-pitch ball as mementos from his start. He'll preserve several memories, too.
"It wasn't only my first outing, it was my first day being here, my first day really seeing what's going on and being there for a big league game," Matusz said. "It was just an unbelievable experience and something I'll remember forever."
Around the horn
Center fielder Adam Jones' experience at the All-Star Game in St. Louis is one of the six "road trips" featured in an MLB Productions special that will air at 9 tonight on ESPN. ... Monday night's game that began with Brian Roberts' homer and ended with Clete Thomas' walk-off for Detroit was the 51st time in big league history a game has started and ended with a home run, according to baseball historian David Vincent. It has happened twice in Baltimore: July 15, 1989 (Dick Schofield and Mike Devereaux), and May 4, 1999 (Ray Durham and Harold Baines).