When Rafael Palmeiro returned from his 10-day suspension after a failed steroid test earlier this month, he remembered the support he received from Sidney Ponson. He pledged yesterday to give the pitcher, who was arrested on drunken-driving charges early Thursday morning, the same courtesy.
"He didn't come up to me or question me about anything," said Palmeiro. "He put his arm around me, and he stands with me, and he supports me. I'm going to do the same with him. I'm going to help him in whichever way I can help him. I'm his teammate. I feel like I'm family with him. We're all human and we all make mistakes, and we're all here to help him if he needs our help."
Palmeiro, who was vocal in his support of Ponson earlier this season when the Orioles seemed ready to trade him, said he was not sure what causes Ponson's off-the-field issues, but he did not deny that the Aruban needs help. Thursday's arrest was his third in the past nine months.
"Maybe he's reaching out for help," Palmeiro said. "I don't know. Maybe we haven't paid close enough attention. I love Sidney as a teammate. I respect him. He's the kind of teammate I want. ... Someone needs to be there for him. I know he doesn't have family here. So some of us need to help come in and do whatever we can to help."
According to several Orioles, Ponson is well-liked in the clubhouse even if players don't agree with his off-the-field habits.
"The one thing that I will always say about Sidney is he'll take the ball and he's going to give you what he's got every fifth day," said second baseman Brian Roberts. "For me, if your teammate is going to do that for you, what you do away from here is your own business. I've never heard anybody say anything bad about him as a person in the clubhouse or on the field. Off the field, what you do is your own business."
Asked if he would welcome Ponson back next year, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said he would, but only under one condition.
"I would like to see a new Sidney back, somebody that is dedicated to the game of baseball, has his life squared away and can help the Orioles," Perlozzo said. "If that is the Sidney that comes back, I'll welcome him back."