Riley Getting Another Chance

It seems to happen every year- there's a collection of former wunderkinder from other organizations gathered in by the Dodgers as they seek to recapture what once was. Chin-Hui Tsao (Rockies) has already made it back to the majors. Joe Mays (Twins) is hoping to do the same from Las Vegas. Then, there's Matt Riley, who's down at Jacksonville.

Riley was once a huge prospect with the Orioles; so promising that he made it up to Baltimore in just his second season (1998). The righthander seemed certain to become a vital part of their rotation for years to come. Instead, there were elbow problems followed by Tommy John surgery.

He lost all of the 2001 season to rehabilitation. He had other chances with the Orioles- two more, in fact. In 2003 when he pitched a shutout in AA, he seemed on his way once more. But that was the last start he was to make. More physical problems caused the Orioles to give up.

Texas gave him a chance in 2005 but he got into only two games for them. A 9.95 ERA meant another trip back to the minors. A guy who once had a fast ball in the mid-90's had lost his stuff and seemed out of chances.

But like most, he wouldn't give up, even if they had. Another operation cost him all of 2006 but it put him in a position to try once more. This time the Dodgers were willing.

So, here he is with the Suns, no longer a starter- at least for the time being. What he needs are innings in which to regroup for since 2004 he's only pitched in 25.1 He's getting those in middle relief and has already worked in 15 with no ill effects.

That's the key, of course. It often takes about 50 innings before someone can exhale. He's done well in his tries so far. His ERA is 1.80; he's holding batters to a .204 mark. His fast ball seems to have regained a lot of its life as he's struck out 22 although his command understandably, isn't where he wants it for he's walked 11.

He's 27 now so there's still time, all feel. He's not a big guy at 5-10, 162 but his pitches have life. And so does he in a game that he seemed destined to conquer. It's early but he's prevailing and for now that's more than enough.

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