BOSTON - Luis Rivera has faced only four hitters as an Oriole, but that's enough to reassure his new organization he is everything it anticipated.
Rivera, 22, yesterday completed his first side session since making a relief appearance in the first game of Wednesday's split doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics. No problem.
"I thought he looked great," said vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift. "He threw effortlessly and with command. Very encouraging."
Manager Mike Hargrove said yesterday that Rivera will likely appear again but said there is no prescribed number or "agenda" under which the club is operating. Regardless, Rivera will participate in the Orioles' instructional league for about 10 days after the season, then report to Culiacan of the Mexican Winter League. Orioles outfielder Karim Garcia is expected to be among his teammates.
The Orioles have intentionally gone slow with Rivera ever since he arrived from the Atlanta Braves with shoulder tendinitis. Until this week's American League debut, Rivera's only work since being acquired along with Trenidad Hubbard and Fernando Lunar on July 31 had been three abbreviated starts at Rochester and three rehab starts at Gulf Coast.
Believing there was no benefit in pushing a talent who immediately became one of the organization's top pitching prospects, the Orioles placed Rivera on a program designed to strengthen his shoulder.
In his Baltimore debut, Rivera retired two of four hitters faced and did not allow a run. His easy motion and explosive fastball moved Hargrove to describe him as carrying "magic" in his arm.
Better than that, Rivera reported no ill effects from his first outing in more than three weeks.
"He's gotten better every time that I've seen him," said Larry McCall, Rochester's pitching coach, who has joined the Orioles for this month. "When Luis first got here, he was hurt. To compensate for that, he incorporated a big swing in his delivery that affected his velocity and command. But we looked at film of how he threw in Atlanta before he was hurt, and he's getting close."
The Orioles project Rivera as a starting pitcher and plan to involve him in next spring's competition for the rotation.
Ankle sidelines Anderson
The Orioles' longest game continues to take its toll.
Hargrove adjusted last night's lineup after Brady Anderson complained of lingering soreness in his left ankle, a byproduct of standing in right field during Tuesday's rain-interrupted loss to the A's. Anderson, who has a bone spur in the ankle, experiences occasional discomfort and noticed a recurrence shortly after Tuesday's game. He played in both games of Wednesday's split doubleheader and awoke Thursday with pain.
Anderson referred to his slipping in the outfield Tuesday as contributing to his flare-up. He has only jogged since.
Hargrove used the combination of Eugene Kingsale in center field and Luis Matos in right. Anderson is considered day-to-day.
Jeff Conine also remained out of the lineup. Because of a severe ankle sprain, he hasn't appeared since accepting one at-bat in Texas on Sept. 12.
Well-traveled Route 70
Mike Trombley became the eighth reliever in Orioles history to reach 70 appearances in a season by pitching in both ends of Wednesday's doubleheader. It is Trombley's third consecutive season of 70 appearances or more.
The road is tougher for Buddy Groom. The left-handed reliever is six games shy of his record fifth consecutive season of 70 or more games. Groom is one of only seven pitchers ever to amass 70 appearances in four straight seasons.
Around the horn
Clinging to a diminishing shot at the postseason, the Red Sox announced today's game has been moved from 5:05 p.m to 4:35 p.m. because of an uncertain weather forecast. The Red Sox are coming off back-to-back doubleheaders against the Cleveland Indians and have no desire to double up in this series. ... Right fielder Albert Belle remained in Baltimore to take batting practice to determine whether he can rejoin the lineup next week as designated hitter. Belle confirmed earlier this week that he is suffering from inflammation of the bursa sac in his right hip and will need off-season rehabilitation to rejoin next year's outfield mix. ... Nomar Garciaparra's infield single in the fourth extended his hitting streak to 14 games, tying a season-high for Boston. ... Melvin Mora was caught stealing in the first inning, making him just 4-for-11 in steal attempts this season.
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Site: Fenway Park, Boston
Times: 4:35 p.m.
TV/Radio: No TV/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: O's Pat Rapp (8-12, 5.94) vs. Red Sox's Rolando Arrojo (5-2, 4.99)