In bigs at 20, Riley fulfills childhood dream; Minor-league phenom puts pressure on hold to enjoy moment; Rhodes still out


Prized 20-year-old left-hander Matt Riley arrived in Baltimore yesterday and watched the Orioles' 15-7 loss to Cleveland from the dugout. He was in uniform, and in his element.

"I'm real excited. This is a childhood dream, something kids wait for all their lives. And it's coming true for me," he said.

"I'm going to enjoy every minute of it."

Riley, a third-round pick in the 1997 draft who almost instantly became the organization's top prospect, will make his major-league debut in Minnesota on Thursday.

Club officials had considered shutting him down until the start of the Arizona Fall League, but determined that if Riley is being projected for next year's rotation, he would benefit more from joining the Orioles.

"I'm ready," he said. "All I asked for was an opportunity. You're really never going to know if you're ready until you get your shot up here and see what happens."

Riley acknowledged that his arm is "wearing down a little" from the 180 innings he's thrown this season, the last 126 at Double-A Bowie, where he went 10-6.

"That's the most innings I've thrown consecutively," he said. "but it's all going to be a learning experience for me."

Asked about his expectations for Thursday, Riley displayed his usual bravado.

"I expect to go out and do what I've been doing all year, pitch successfully," he said. "Just go out and pitch my game."

Up to now, that's been a winning plan.

Rhodes wait drags on

The wait continues on left-hander Arthur Rhodes. And for Arthur Rhodes.

Orioles manager Ray Miller said he was told Rhodes is out "indefinitely" with a bruised left index finger, an injury that resulted from a hard smash up the middle during an Aug. 22 game against Chicago at Camden Yards. Rhodes compounded the problem by falling on his hand.

He's pitched once since then, going 2 1/3 scoreless innings at Detroit on Aug. 27. Miller took the outing as a good sign. It turned into an aberration.

Rhodes, who is checked daily by trainer Richie Bancells, says he's not able to pitch. Miller has no choice but to take his word for it and seek other means for getting through the later innings.

"I just reaggravated it," Rhodes said. "I'm just waiting for all the pain to go away and the swelling to go down."

Rhodes, a free agent after this season, has yielded seven earned runs and nine hits in his last 13 innings. Overall, he's 3-4 with a 5.43 ERA, 45 walks and 59 strikeouts in 53 innings. He's also held the lead 15 of the 18 times it's been handed to him this season.

Bordick to get night off

Miller intends to give shortstop Mike Bordick a night off while the club is in Minnesota for a three-game series that begins tomorrow. He has started 132 of 136 games.

Jesse Garcia, who will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester tomorrow, most likely will start in Bordick's place. Also joining the Orioles will be first baseman Calvin Pickering and reliever Gabe Molina. Molina is due to arrive today.

Garcia and Molina each have made two previous stops in Baltimore this season.

Miller had requested a third catcher, but Rochester's Tommy Davis was hit on his throwing hand and teammate Julio Vinas -- the Red Wings' MVP this season -- isn't on the 40-man roster. Neither is Double-A Bowie's Jayson Werth, one of the organization's top prospects. Miller wants to give Mike Figga more starts this month, but also would like to pinch hit for him without bringing in Charles Johnson.

Wet and wild

Boredom over a 1-hour, 29-minute rain delay had gotten the best of left-hander Doug Johns by 1: 45 p.m. That's when he decided to do something about it.

Johns, with a sock tied around his head, rushed onto the soaked tarp and dived headfirst into second base. Not content with a double, he went into third base in the same manner.

Game over? Not quite.

Johns interrupted his walk to the dugout just in front of the mound, suddenly veering toward the plate for one more dive. Johns rose to his feet and gave the safe call. Somewhere, Rick Dempsey was smiling.

Grabbing the spotlight

One of the weekend's finest defensive plays was turned in Saturday by ballgirl Heather Bressler, who made a backhanded stab of a line drive by Jerry Hairston in the second inning that was headed for the right-field seats. Her timing was impeccable in more ways than one: The game was being televised nationally on Fox.

"I don't know if she can hit," announcer Thom Brennaman quipped, "but she always could field her position."

Around the horn

Indians manager Mike Hargrove is considering removing Dwight Gooden from the rotation. The second rain delay lasted 17 minutes and the game took 3 1/2 hours.

Pub Date: 9/06/99

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