ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - If good health translated into victories, Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson could expect to end his nine-game losing streak tonight in Kansas City.
Two bullpen sessions at Tropicana Field convinced Ponson that his strained groin muscle has healed, and he's eager to start for the first time since July 4. If nothing else, he's tired of looking at a 3-12 record - the biggest eyesore in baseball.
"I'm really anxious," he said yesterday. "It's been two weeks since I pitched, but I'm well-rested. I'm definitely looking forward to [tonight] and hopefully I'll win a ballgame."
That would be a switch.
Ponson went 0-6 with a 6.46 ERA in June, becoming the first Orioles pitcher to lose six games in a month since Robin Roberts in May 1965. Ponson leads the American League with 12 defeats, and his 6.29 ERA is the worst among qualifying starters.
Enough time remains for Ponson to salvage his season, perhaps beginning with tonight's assignment.
"That's why it's good they gave me the extra days' rest to get myself healed up," he said. "I have about 15 starts left. If I win 12 of them, it's a whole different season."
Ponson threw for 18 minutes on Thursday and about 10 on Saturday, increasing his intensity during the second session, and wasn't bothered by the same discomfort that caused the Orioles to skip his last start before the break.
Starter needed Thursday
No decision has been made on a starter for Thursday's doubleheader in Boston, but it appears the Orioles will have to dip into their minor league system for a non-roster pitcher.
Manager Lee Mazzilli indicated that he won't use a bullpen-by-committee approach and pretty much eliminated John Parrish as a candidate. Parrish made an emergency start July 7 against Tampa Bay and allowed three runs (one earned) in 2 1/3 innings.
Left-hander Bruce Chen is 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA in 14 games at Triple-A Ottawa. He has walked 18 and struck out 64. He also brings major league experience.
In his last start, Chen allowed one run in six innings, striking out six, in Friday's 3-2, 12-inning win over Norfolk. He's 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his past five outings.
John Maine also is a candidate, though the Orioles are hesitant to rush him another level. He has a 3.22 ERA in his past eight starts, with 51 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings.
Maine would be working on normal rest after allowing one earned run in 6 1/3 innings Saturday in a 4-3 loss to Norfolk.
Because the Orioles have 39 players on their 40-man roster, they wouldn't need a corresponding move to create room for either pitcher.
Segui going to Bowie
With team officials convinced that David Segui's left knee has healed after surgery, he is scheduled to begin an injury rehab assignment today at Double-A Bowie.
Segui underwent an arthroscopic procedure May 11 and later was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. He hit .325 in his last 10 games.
Rather than accompany the team to Kansas City, Segui will get some needed at-bats with the Baysox.
Mike Flanagan, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, said the assignment should last a week to 10 days.
Mora in; Leon out
The Orioles optioned Jose Leon to Ottawa yesterday and activated Melvin Mora from the disabled list.
Mora started at third base for the first time since straining his right hamstring June 2 in Philadelphia. He had missed 11 of the previous 15 games with a sprained ligament in his left foot.
"That's a lot of right-handed bat to lose," Mazzilli said.
Mora hit his 13th homer to tie the game 2-2 in the sixth inning and also walked.
Around the horn
The Orioles have held discussions with the New York Mets concerning outfielder Karim Garcia, who played for them in 2000, but a move doesn't appear imminent. With left-handed hitting outfielders Jay Gibbons and B.J. Surhoff on the disabled list, Garcia has drawn interest from the club. ... The Orioles were 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position in the series.