Ponson could miss start after break

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Groin injury to get test in side session Thursday

Dodgers may want Riley

Notebook

July 12, 2004|By Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen | Roch Kubatko and Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The groin injury that led Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson to miss Saturday's start also could keep him out of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' series that opens the second half.

Ponson will throw on the side Thursday at Tropicana Field. If manager Lee Mazzilli is satisfied with the results, Ponson would face the Devil Rays three days later. But Mazzilli said a second bullpen session might be required, which would push back Ponson to the two-game series against the Kansas City Royals.

"He might go in Kansas City. I could do that, too," Mazzilli said. "It depends whether he needs two sides or not."

The Orioles are listing Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, Rodrigo Lopez and Dave Borkowski as the starters in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Ponson estimated the discomfort began four or five starts ago but didn't affect his performance. Cabrera took his turn in the rotation Saturday, though Ponson said he was healthy enough to pitch.

"This isn't the first time in my career that I've had a strained groin," said Ponson, who's 3-12 with a 6.29 ERA in 113 innings. "We decided it was better for me to stay out for a couple of days, let it heal up and get treatment.

"There's no question I could have pitched yesterday. It was a little sore, and I don't want to take a chance on pulling it and being out two months."

The injury could provide a convenient excuse for Ponson's struggles, but he's not using it.

"I've given up 40 more hits than innings pitched," he said. "That has nothing to do with my groin."

Dodgers eye Riley?

The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the teams that scouted Ponson in the first half, but because he has a full no-trade clause this season, a more likely target for them is left-hander Matt Riley.

When the Orioles drafted Riley in the third round in 1997, Logan White was their West Coast scouting supervisor. White now is the Dodgers' scouting director and still has a fondness for Riley.

The Orioles have grown increasingly frustrated with Riley, who was demoted to Triple-A Ottawa last week as a disciplinary measure.

Impressed by Cabrera

Though his exposure to Cabrera has been limited since replacing Mark Wiley as pitching coach, Ray Miller looks at the rookie right-hander and is reminded of former Houston Astros pitcher J.R. Richard.

"I'm not comparing him to the end product, but James Rodney Richard was big, tall and really threw hard," Miller said. "This kid doesn't throw quite as hard, but he will throw harder because he's going to fill out. He looks skinny as a rail now. He's 240, so he'll probably pitch about 255.

"He's interesting. Everything he throws is downhill and he has movement. He can throw his fastball on either side of the plate, sink it, rise it. And he's a learner. The first day I worked with him, he said, `I want you with me all the time. I want you to be my father. You help me. I want to learn.' I said, `OK, but just one thing at a time.' "

Miller is trying to teach Cabrera to change speeds more, taking a little bit off his breaking ball. By doing so, Cabrera could retire hitters quicker and lower his pitch count rather than exert more energy with strikeouts.

"By changing speeds and using his defense, he'll be OK," Miller said.

Cabrera's disposition also could ensure plenty of good times.

"The biggest thing I like is he seems very unshakable," Miller said. "Somebody almost hit a home run yesterday, the ball was caught and he points to the outfielder and goes right back to pitching."

Maine in sights

The Orioles are keeping close tabs on John Maine, a sixth-round pick in 2002 who rebounded from a slow start at Ottawa to go 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four appearances. He is becoming the most obvious choice in the minors if the team needs another pitcher.

Maine was 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five games at Double-A Bowie. He's 4-5 with a 4.81 ERA with the Lynx.

"If he's going to help us, you always have to leave that option open," Mazzilli said.

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