Ponson cleared to go to Toronto

3-day permit will allow him to start tomorrow


April 23, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - Orioles right-hander Sidney Ponson finally received the long-awaited approval for a minister's permit, allowing him to travel here and make his scheduled start tomorrow.

Ponson caught an afternoon flight from Baltimore and arrived at Rogers Centre during the eighth inning of last night's game.

"We're just glad it's all resolved, and we'll go from here," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. "I think the ballclub ... worked very hard at getting this done. You always want to get him in the clubhouse. He's got to work. He's got to throw."

Ponson had been unable to obtain a permit because of his January arrest in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on a charge of driving under the influence, and assault chargesin connection with a Christmas Day fight with a judge in his homeland of Aruba.

Assistant director of minor league operations Tripp Norton took a flight to Buffalo yesterday morning to pick up the permit and other paperwork. He went back to Baltimore, meeting Ponson at the airport. Ponson then boarded a plane for Toronto.

The permit could have been mailed yesterday and been in Baltimore by this morning, but the Orioles didn't want Ponson traveling to Toronto the day before he was supposed to pitch.

Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan said the permit is valid for only three days, though Ponson can reapply for a visa once his legal issues in Aruba are resolved. Ponson has been given until May 10 to reach an out-of-court settlement. After this series, the Orioles don't play in Toronto again until June 20.

Steroid suspensions

Three members of the Orioles' organization were among nine players suspended 15 games yesterday for violating baseball's minor league steroids policy.

Gary Cates Jr., a second baseman for Double-A Bowie, third baseman Rafael Diaz and left-handed pitcher Richard Salazar, both of Single-A Delmarva, were suspended after positive tests from Florida spring training camps.

"From our side of it, our players are very well-educated on the policy and it's unfortunate that through all that education, we have this," said Flanagan. "We are disappointed and they have to pay the consequences. I don't feel any embarrassment at all. I think the responsibility from our side is to get the word out and to educate our players on this. Unfortunately, some still choose to do it and that's going to continue."

Forty-seven players have been suspended so far for violating baseball's steroids policy. All three Orioles minor leaguers are considered lower-level prospects.

Cates, 23, a 39th-round selection in the 1999 first-year player draft, is hitting .174 with no homers and three RBIs in 14 games for Bowie this year after hitting .255 with four homers in 111 games with the Baysox. Diaz, 23, a non-drafted free agent signed in 1999, has never been above Single-A and is hitting .120 with no homers and no RBIs.

After spending last season in the Venezuelan Summer League because of visa problems, Salazar, 23, a 13th-round selection in the 2001 first year player draft, is 1-0 with a 9.00 ERA for the Shorebirds.

"They are professional ballplayers," Flanagan said. "They are important to us and whether they are of star quality or not, we treat them all the same."

Flanagan said that the players will be allowed to participate in workouts with the team while serving their suspensions and will not face further discipline from the club.

Also suspended were Grant Roberts (New York Mets), Adam Seuss (Houston Astros), James Jurries and Ricardo Rodriguez (Atlanta Braves), Eider Torres (Cleveland Indians) and Damien Myers (released by the Detroit Tigers).

Bedard's homecoming

Orioles left-hander Erik Bedard, today's starter, is expected to pitch in front of a large section of family and friends.

Bedard, who became the 200th Canadian to play in the majors when he debuted in 2002, was born and still lives in Navan, Ontario. He has never pitched at Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome. He has faced the Blue Jays twice and is 0-1 with a 12.79 ERA.

Around the horn

Triple-A Ottawa activated former Yankee infielder Enrique Wilson, who signed a minor league contract with the Orioles in the offseason. Wilson, a native of the Dominican Republic who was one of the last cuts in spring training, finally received the paperwork he needed to play in Canada. ... Sickness has spread throughout the Orioles clubhouse, particularly affecting Miguel Tejada, though Mazzilli said everybody is feeling better.

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