Relocating Ponson to the bullpen would be a good move for Orioles

July 17, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

IT'S TIME to stop tiptoeing around Sidney Ponson, and not because I get tired after only a couple of laps.

The Orioles should take one more hard look at him today and be prepared to make a hard decision. If, after a week off, he still looks like the same guy who couldn't get anybody out at the end of the first half, give his spot in the rotation to James Baldwin and intensify the effort to acquire another front-line starting pitcher.

This is a no-brainer, especially with the Orioles apparently on the upswing after the lengthy slump that knocked them off the top of the standings. Erik Bedard is scheduled to return to the rotation tomorrow night. The other regular members of the rotation have bounced back from a rocky month of June (and first week of July). The club cannot afford to give away a game every fifth day -- even if Sidney does eat up innings along with everything on the late-night menu at T.G.I. Friday's.

Of course, that leaves open the question of what to do with him, since it's going to be pretty tough to trade a guy with a 5.93 ERA who still has about $13 million in guaranteed money left on his contract. Nobody's going to take him unless he brings along most of that money in a big duffel bag.

The Orioles aren't going to release him and pay him off -- and he insists that his sore elbow is not sore enough to warrant a stay on the disabled list -- so the only other alternative is to stick him in the bullpen and hope that he's a better pitcher for two innings at a time than he has been for seven.

Going from the starting rotation to a daily pitching regimen will allow Ponson to pitch without trying to pace himself, and -- who knows -- maybe daily work will force him to moderate his happy-go-lucky lifestyle. The Orioles can only hope.

The sad fact of the matter is, he has all but worn out his welcome in Baltimore and something has to be done to salvage his once-valuable right arm or ease him out of the picture. The club's playoff hopes may depend on it.

Don't get too excited about rumors that Ponson and Steve Kline might be included in a deal for Florida Marlins pitcher A.J. Burnett. The Marlins aren't interested in picking up salary, and both players have substantial guaranteed money coming next season.

The Orioles probably would be willing to pick up a big chunk of the nearly $4 million they still owe Kline just to get him out of the clubhouse, but the bite for Ponson is just too big for either the O's to swallow or another team to absorb.

Orioles utility player David Newhan has mended fences in Ottawa, smoothing over negative comments he made about the city and the ballpark when the O's sent him down before the All-Star break.

Better yet, Newhan hit the ground running. He had five hits in his first eight at-bats Thursday and Friday. He struggled with sporadic playing time in Baltimore, so he should benefit from playing every day for a while at the Triple-A level.

Two weeks until football training camps open and the kid is already talking incessantly about the Redskins.

Here's what I've learned so far: Patrick Ramsey is going to get jerked around again, even though he's the best quarterback on the roster. Carlos Rogers is going to miss training camp with that stress fracture in his ankle. Sean Taylor still is on the hook for a serious firearm charge that could put him in jail for three years.

Fortunately, the kid goes back to college in August, so I won't have to turn the TV way up every Sunday to drown out the sobbing.

I know that the second round of the British Open ended almost a day earlier, but switching between Rafael Palmeiro's 3,000th career hit in Seattle and the network replay of Jack Nicklaus' birdie on 18 at St. Andrews on Friday was like watching history in surround sound. I was getting all misty-eyed and I wasn't sure who it was for.

Frankly, I don't know how anybody can watch the All-Star Home Run Derby (Oh, sorry, the Century 21 Home Run Derby) without wondering if those really are the same baseballs they use in regular-season play.

I'm not making any accusations, but it has been six days and one of Bobby Abreu's home runs just landed in my backyard.

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