No-hit Ponson makes quick work of Cards

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

On mound, at plate, he's hitless wonder through 3

shortstop Roberts lacking

Baseball

March 03, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. - The only time Sidney Ponson looked bad yesterday was standing at the plate.

When taking aim at it, he was flawless.

Starting the exhibition opener, Ponson tore through the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup as if facing a Double-A team rather than the defending National League Central Division champions. He retired all nine batters, two on strikeouts, in the Orioles' 4-3 victory at Roger Dean Stadium.

Ponson threw 19 of his 31 pitches for strikes. He got Jim Edmonds looking to end the first and Edgar Renteria swinging to end the second.

"He looked good. It looked like he threw some good two-seamers. He got a few pitches down that we thought were good strikes that weren't called," said manager Mike Hargrove.

Ponson was slated to throw 50 pitches or go three innings - whichever came first. He needed only 18 to get through the first two innings, throwing 12 strikes.

Ponson's fastball was his best pitch yesterday, certainly good enough to make it through three innings. He didn't get the desired results with his other pitches, however, and proved to be his harshest critic.

"I'm not that happy with my changeup, my off-speed pitches," he said. "Looking on the bright side, it was my first time out in a game. I'll just have to keep throwing in the bullpen and see what happens.

"I was pushing the ball. My changeup was up in the zone. I was short-arming my curveball. I'm kind of mad, but you have to use common sense. It's my first time out, and you have more adrenalin than when you throw in the bullpen."

Ponson remembered one instance when he benefited from the high strike zone being enforced this season. "The high fastball's going to help me," he said. "I threw a couple, but I believe my game's still going to be pitching down. They'll catch up to the ones that are up. "

Ponson also got the rare opportunity to bat, facing Cardinals starter Dustin Hermanson with two outs in the third inning. He slapped at the ball twice, the second time producing a dribbler to the right side. He received some playful jabs upon returning to the dugout, each one producing a smile and a shrug of the shoulders.

"Grover [Hargrove] said, `Don't hit the ball hard,' so I didn't," Ponson quipped.

Roberts off to wild start

While Ed Rogers keeps getting compared to Alex Rodriguez, the other shortstop prospect in camp simply wants to become healthy enough to resemble himself.

Brian Roberts, the Orioles' sandwich pick between the first two rounds of the 1999 draft, hasn't fully recovered from surgery last April to remove bone chips from his right elbow. Sidelined until early July, Roberts batted .301 in 48 games at Single-A Frederick and was named the club's 10th-best prospect by Baseball America.

But his throwing has been abysmal in camp, with reporters and visitors in danger of getting beaned each time they venture beside the first base dugout during drills.

He's still searching for the right release point, one that will get the ball to its intended target with minimal discomfort.

"It's OK. It's not great yet, but it's coming along a little better," Roberts said. "It still gets a little stiff and sore. I don't have the same looseness in the elbow that I had before the surgery. I'm still trying to get it back. But I'm starting to be able to throw a little bit better.

"It's kind of frustrating, but it's early, and really, I don't worry about it too much. As long as my arm strength continues to come back, I know I'll be fine eventually."

Starting at shortstop in Wednesday's intrasquad game, Roberts twice pulled first baseman Jay Gibbons off the bag with high throws. The second one resulted in an error.

"I've asked him about his arm, and he doesn't say a lot about it," said bench coach Sam Perlozzo, who works with the infielders. "He keeps saying it's getting close.

"I'm kind of waiting. Before you can make a total judgment on somebody, you'd like to be able to see them throw a little bit better than they are. But he's a good little player. He hit a ball deep the other day. He's intelligent, a step ahead of the game."

Quick hits

The No. 0: Unsigned players on the 40-man roster after Ivanon Coffie, Mike Kinkade, Eugene Kingsale and Juan Figueroa agreed to terms on contracts for 2001.

Injury update: David Segui (hamstring) is scheduled to start against Minnesota today. Cal Ripken remains about two weeks away from swinging a bat because of a fractured rib. Mark Nussbeck could need another two weeks before returning to the mound because of tendinitis in his right shoulder. Luis Rivera will be examined on Monday by Dr. James Andrews, who's expected to perform arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in the pitcher's right shoulder.

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