Scouts catch Ponson's start, but overhand curve to wait


He plans to renew use of old pitch this season

February 28, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. - Life on the trading block resumed for Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson yesterday, as he started the team's exhibition opener with an assortment of scouts toting radar guns behind home plate.

Ponson had mixed results, allowing a first-inning run but retiring his final six batters. Those scouts actually might want to wait before turning in their reports because Ponson didn't throw his overhand curveball, and that's a pitch he plans to use more this season to complement his fastball, slider and seldom-used changeup.

Ponson actually threw the overhand curve when he first reached the majors, and then went away from it before dusting it off late last season with pretty good results.

"I'm going to try to use it more this year and see what happens," Ponson said.

Orioles pitching coach Mark Wiley said it's important for Ponson to throw his curve and changeup because it keeps him from overusing his slider. A prime example came in the second inning, when Ponson made Florida Marlins left fielder Todd Hollandsworth look foolish with a 2-1 slider after keeping him off-balance with the changeup.

"He can just bury them," Wiley said, "because they're not going to get the chance to pick it up. They're not going to see it enough to be able to pick it up."

With seven established starters vying for five spots in the starting rotation, Ponson is an obvious trade target as he enters his final season before free agency. Still, he's trying not to let that affect him.

"I think the Orioles need to make a decision," said Ponson, 26. "They have seven starters and a lot of relievers, and they have to go somewhere. So, [a trade] may happen and it may not happen. I cannot say anything about it. I'm just here right now with the Orioles is the way I look at it."

Is seven enough?

It would seem the Orioles already have enough starting pitching, but insiders say they haven't ruled out the possibility of signing free agent left-hander Kenny Rogers. He turned down a two-year, $10 million deal with the Texas Rangers this offseason but remains unsigned, and word around baseball is that Rogers can be had for two years, $4 million.

For now, the chance of the Orioles signing him sounds like a possibility, not a probability.

Rodriguez's new home

After missing out on signing free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez, the Orioles caught a first-hand glimpse of him in a Marlins uniform yesterday. Rodriguez hit third in what could very well be Florida's Opening Day lineup, behind Juan Pierre and ahead of Derrek Lee.

Rodriguez drove home the game's first run with a first-inning sacrifice fly and singled to start the fourth inning.

Around the horn

The Orioles plan to hold a moment of silence before today's game to honor Steve Bechler, their 23-year-old pitching prospect who died of heatstroke on Feb. 17. ... They gave one-year contracts to Jay Gibbons, Erik Bedard, Larry Bigbie, Daniel Cabrera, Sean Douglass, Eric DuBose, Darnell McDonald, Mike Paradis and Matt Riley. They now have 27 of the 39 players on their major-league roster under contract. ... Omar Daal was scheduled to pitch yesterday's Grapefruit League opener, along with Ponson, but the Orioles pushed him back a day. Hargrove said the decision wasn't injury-related.

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