All-Star break gives Ponson time for blister to heal

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Winless since May 23, he hopes luck changes

July 08, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas - The All-Star break comes at a good time for Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson, who will have seven days between starts to heal the blister on his right middle finger.

With any luck, Ponson might be able to end his eight-start winless streak, which dates to May 23. Ponson had some pretty tough luck during June, going 0-1 with a 2.41 ERA in six starts.

He had to leave after two scoreless innings on June 30, when the blister first developed, and it bothered him again Saturday night against the Texas Rangers.

Ponson said the blister popped in the fourth inning, and he blew a 4-0 lead before leaving with two outs in the sixth.

"I tried to go out and suck it up, but I hurt the team in the long run," Ponson said. "It's not all the time I get run support like that, and today I got it, and I didn't make use of it."

After going 5-10 with a 4.94 ERA last season, Ponson finished the first half at 3-4 with a 4.14 ERA.

On the surface, it might look like he has struggled, but the Orioles are 12-6 in his starts. For comparison, the Orioles are 5-13 in Scott Erickson's starts and 3-7 in Jason Johnson's starts.

"It's out of my control," Ponson said. "I just have to go out there and pitch, and hopefully the wins will come. We're winning as a team, and at the end of the year, we can tell how my season's really gone."

Ryan shows improvement

Orioles reliever B.J. Ryan had his ERA balloon to 8.06 on June 18, when pitching coach Mark Wiley began taking a new approach with Ryan, designed to restore his confidence and improve his consistency.

Entering last night, Ryan had made four appearances, spanning four innings, while allowing one earned run, lowering his ERA to 7.18. On Saturday night, Ryan retired all four batters he faced with just 16 pitches, keeping the score tied and putting the Orioles in position to win, 7-5, in the ninth.

On a night Orioles manager Mike Hargrove was trying to give a break to Jorge Julio, Willis Roberts and Buddy Groom, the club received big contributions from its second tier of relievers. Besides Ryan, Rick Bauer got the victory, allowing one run in 1 2/3 innings, and Yorkis Perez earned his first save since 1995.

"It's good," Ryan said. "Everybody out there wants to pitch. We're all fighting for innings. And competitiveness in the bullpen is just as good as competitiveness everywhere else."

Erickson offers relief

Erickson, who is scheduled to pitch Thursday against the Oakland Athletics in the first game back from the All-Star break, asked Hargrove if the team needed an extra reliever for last night's game.

Having not pitched since Wednesday, Erickson will have seven days between starts, so he figured he could give the team an inning of relief, if necessary. With Julio, Roberts and Groom all getting a day off Saturday, the top relievers in the bullpen were already well rested, so Erickson wasn't needed.

Stephens in Futures Game

Orioles pitching prospect John Stephens started for the World team at last night's Futures Game in Milwaukee. He threw one scoreless inning, allowing one hit, in the World team's 5-1 victory over the United States.

Around the bases

Jose Leon has started eight games at first base for the Orioles this season, one more than David Segui. ... Perez went seven years, 27 days between saves, but the major-league record is 14 years and 23 days, held by former Orioles pitcher and current broadcaster Mike Flanagan. He had a save on May 7, 1977, and another on May 30, 1991.

Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

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