- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2004

BALTIMORE — Two rainouts in the span of a week have played havoc with the Baltimore Orioles’ starting rotation, and as a result Matt Riley has been assigned temporarily to pitch out of the bullpen.

It’s a unique role for Riley, who yesterday was preparing for the possibility of making his first relief appearance since 2000. Of his 123 appearances as a professional, 116 of them were starts including all nine of his games in the majors.

Manager Lee Mazzilli said the shuffle occurred because “if we had stayed on the rotation as it is, guys would have went on seven days’ [rest], which is not good.”

Riley had no complaints, although he conceded beginning a game in the bullpen probably would feel a bit strange.

“It’s going to be a little different, but it’s something I don’t have a problem doing,” Riley said. “I talked to Mazz about it today. He explained to me he’s got to get some guys back on track. I understand.”

Mazzilli projected Riley’s return to the rotation in mid-May. The manager opted to keep Erik Bedard in the rotation because the rookie has seen sporadic work as the fifth starter.

“I wanted to get Bedard on kind of a routine,” Mazzilli said. “He hasn’t really settled in.”

Because the Orioles’ starters, including Riley, encountered difficulty accumulating innings in April, the bullpen has been overworked. Rodrigo Lopez has picked up the majority of the long-relief work, and now Riley hopes to lend a hand.

“I saw today our bullpen has thrown 91 innings. That’s a lot for the first month of the season,” Riley said. “Maybe I can help out like Rodrigo has been able to. I look forward to getting back into the rotation, of course, because I feel I am a starter. But I’ve got to help the bullpen out.”

Riley, 24, admitted he might have had a different attitude a few years back, when he was more interested in himself than the good of the Orioles.

“If it’s going to help this team, I’m glad to do it,” he said. “This is a team thing; this isn’t a Matt Riley thing. Maybe when I was 20 years old I would have taken it as a Matt Riley thing, taken it personal and gotten into a funk.”

McDonald returns

The last time Darnell McDonald saw the inside of the Orioles’ clubhouse was in 1997, shortly after he signed as a first-round pick in the 1997 amateur draft.

The 25-year-old outfielder celebrated his return, just four days after being called up from Class AAA Ottawa to replace David Segui, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday.

McDonald made his big league debut in Cleveland over the weekend and got his first hit Friday. He looked forward to an encore at Camden Yards.

“It’s definitely a dream come true. I’m proud and happy and excited, all at the same time,” he said. “From Day One, this is what I was working for. For it to happen is gratifying. It’s been a long time coming.”

There are no guarantees McDonald will stick around for long, but he hopes to perform well enough to make an impression on Mazzilli and his staff.

“You get an opportunity, you want to play well to show the team and the manager the things you can do. Show them that you belong in the big leagues,” he said.

If he gets sent back to the minors, so be it.

“Those are things you can’t control,” he said. “All you can worry about are things that are in your control.”

Regardless, McDonald believes he’s better off than he was before his callup.

“I know with every opportunity I get to play it’s an opportunity to get better and learn,” he said.

J. Lopez back in lineup

Javy Lopez returned to the starting lineup yesterday after missing two games with a sore muscle in his right side.

“He said he felt great. I think he’s chomping at the bit to get back,” Mazzilli said.

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