Slower Ponson gets quick DL trip

Elbow tendinitis ends 86-turn streak

April 18, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

The Orioles confirmed that Sidney Ponson's problems extend beyond erratic control and diminished velocity by placing the pitcher on the 15-day disabled list with elbow tendinitis yesterday.

Chad Paronto, the last right-handed pitcher cut by the Orioles in spring training, will be promoted from Triple-A Rochester to fill Ponson's roster spot.

Manager Mike Hargrove said Willis Roberts will make Ponson's next start Friday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, with Paronto taking Roberts' place in the bullpen as a long reliever.

"Obviously, Sidney was going to miss at least one start, and a lot of times one start goes into two, so you may as well DL him," Hargrove said after last night's 8-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. "It's better to be safe than sorry. We want to get him back as soon as we can, but now we have at least 15 days."

Ponson was examined by team orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs after complaining of pain in the elbow Monday, the day after he surrendered five earned runs and three home runs in a 7-4 loss to the Devil Rays. He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging yesterday that revealed no structural damage but confirmed hot spots consistent with inflammation.

Vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift said the injury is of "no severity" and expects Ponson to miss the minimum 15 days.

The move was made retroactive to Monday, so Ponson may next pitch on May 1.

"We're doing this as a preventative measure," Thrift said. "It's a mild case of tendinitis but we want to take every precaution with Sidney this early in the season."

Paronto, 25, attended spring training as a nonroster invitee and will be added today to the 40-man roster.

Friday will represent Ponson's first missed start since joining the Orioles' rotation in June 1998. He has taken 86 consecutive turns since and ranked as the team's leading returning innings eater this season.

Ponson, 24, pitched 432 innings combined the previous two seasons, including 222 in 2000. The defection of free agent Mike Mussina to the New York Yankees left Ponson as the only Orioles starter to have thrown at least 200 innings since 1997.

Ponson has pitched unevenly while losing all three starts. Sunday's performance was typified by diminished velocity on his four-seam fastball and a heavy reliance on a two-seam pitch. Usually able to hit 98 mph with his fastball, he reached 95 against the Devil Rays.

Ponson initially denied being hurt when approached by manager Mike Hargrove afterward, but when the discomfort persisted, he admitted to a problem.

"Talking to Richie [Bancells, trainer], he told me it was probably going to be tendinitis," Ponson said. "I asked if we could check it out just to be sure. I might not feel something in the tests but the MRI could show something different. I'm just happy that it's tendinitis, and we'll go from here.

"It comes and goes," Ponson added. "I had it last year at the start of the season and the end of the season. It's wear and tear on your elbow. I throw a lot in the off-season before I come to camp. It just acted up on me this year. ...

"I'm a competitor and I want to go out there every five days, but it got to the point where Hargrove told me he was going to put me on the 15-day DL, and I agree with it. ... I want to come back and still have five months and see what happens from there."

In three starts, Ponson has surrendered a 6.62 ERA and a league-high six home runs allowed in 17 2/3 innings pitched. Opponents had reached him for a .268 average and .606 slugging percentage. He has struck out 19 against only four walks but on Sunday looked far less dominant than the pitcher who struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings against the Boston Red Sox on April 4.

Hargrove rated his concern about Ponson as a three on a scale of one to 10.

"The way it's been explained to me by Dr. Jacobs and our trainers, it's a case of tendinitis and nothing structural," Hargrove said. "He went through extensive tests today and there's nothing structurally wrong with his arm, just mild to medium tendinitis. I don't think it's a severe case."

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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