FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A winter of discontent for Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson includes one other legal matter that apparently went unnoticed by team officials - an arrest two months ago on a charge of driving under the influence.
Ponson, 28, was stopped going south on Interstate 95 in Fort Lauderdale about 2 a.m. on Jan. 21, according to a report from Trooper Greg Elias of the Florida Highway Patrol. Ponson also was charged with speeding.
A spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol said Ponson was clocked at 85 mph before reducing his speed to 25 mph when an officer's vehicle maneuvered behind him. The minimum speed on the highway is 40 mph.
The pitcher failed the field sobriety test and refused to take the Breathalyzer test.
According to Elias, he smelled "a very strong odor of an alcoholic beverage from [Ponson's] breath as he spoke. I observed very red bloodshot, watery, glassy brown eyes and a very red flush face."
Because Ponson was a first-time defendant who refused to take a breath, urine or blood test, he surrendered his driver's license in accordance with Florida law. He posted bond at the Broward County jail.
No date has been set for an arraignment.
Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said yesterday that he had no knowledge of the arrest. A club spokesman also said he hadn't heard about it and made no further comment.
Ponson wasn't available to comment after yesterday's game against the Boston Red Sox.
"Since this matter has not been resolved, I can't really comment on it," said Ponson's agent, Barry Praver. The incident took place less than a month after Ponson was arrested in his native Aruba on Christmas Day after an altercation on a beach. He was detained for 11 days before returning to his Fort Lauderdale home.
Ponson found more trouble Tuesday night when he got into a scuffle with a male patron at a Florida restaurant.
Ponson said he was verbally harassed while eating dinner with his girlfriend and finally became physical once the patron shoved him. Ponson wouldn't confirm whether he punched the man, but he arrived at the next day's workout with a swollen right hand.
X-rays didn't reveal any broken bones, and Ponson played catch yesterday before heading to the trainer's room for treatment. His hand, which had a small cut on top, was wrapped in ice.
Ponson is scheduled to throw in the bullpen today, one day later than planned, and make Sunday's start against the Minnesota Twins.
"I'm good. No problems at all," Ponson said. "I just had a little bit of soreness. That's basically it.
"I don't want to talk about it. It's one of those things that hopefully won't happen again. It's one of those things that people are going to find out who the hell I am and try to push my buttons. I hold back as much as I can until I have to defend myself."
Beattie wouldn't say whether the club planned any disciplinary action against Ponson.
"As far as I know, it sounds like he was defending himself," Beattie said. "But at the same time, we have to talk to him."
After reporting to spring training, Ponson expressed his frustration at being provoked in public venues.
"If I know the guy's going to do it, then they will kick him out," Ponson said at the time. "If they don't, I will leave. It won't hurt me to go home or somewhere else."
Asked yesterday if he considered walking out before the situation escalated, Ponson said: "I was eating. I'm hungry, I'm staying to eat."
After the altercation, Ponson said he paid his bill, left the restaurant and returned home.
"I'm not going to lie. When I do something wrong, I'm always the first one to admit it. This time, I didn't do nothing wrong," he said.
"It kept going on and on, and he was nagging me for a minute. Words never hurt, but he touched me and then I had to draw the line. You clearly could see the guy was intoxicated. It's one of those things you can't do nothing about it.
"It's going to happen. I know it's going to happen. But the circumstances, how it happened, I didn't like. What do you want me to do? People are different all over the place. Now I know I have to be more cautious than ever. But I'm still going to go to restaurants to eat."
Beattie sympathized with how vulnerable today's athletes have become.
"It's true of any player," he said. "You're always concerned. ... These things happen with a lot of players these days. They get challenged. There's a whole range of fans out there who respond to situations, and you have to be very careful."
Dec. 25: Accused of punching a judge during an altercation on a beach in Aruba.
Jan. 21: Stopped and charged with driving under the influence in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Wednesday: Arrives at the ballpark with his right hand swollen after an altercation with a male patron Tuesday night at a restaurant in Florida.