Ponson garners attention at camp
Right-hander throws off bullpen mound; scouts take notice
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals offered Sidney Ponson a mound to showcase his stuff, largely as a favor to the right-hander and his agent, Barry Praver. It turns out, however, that Ponson's throwing session may have been more intriguing than any team anticipated.
With scouts looking on from teams that included St. Louis, Seattle, Kansas City and Arizona, Ponson threw for about 15 minutes on one of the bullpen mounds at the Cardinals complex at Roger Dean Stadium. He touched 93-94 miles per hour on a radar gun and reported that he weighed 248 pounds, down from his most recent listed weight of 260.
He's eager to get a chance to pitch again, wherever it may be.
"I got released from Minnesota and mentally I was frustrated, and so I took the year off -- and now I'm ready to rock and roll again," Ponson said after he threw. "My mind is clear. My arm is good. I'm working hard. I'm in pretty good shape. I'm pretty happy with the way I threw today."
Ponson enjoyed a strong year in 2003, split between the Orioles and Giants, but since then it's been a run of bad times for him in the Majors. He put up a 5.30 ERA with Baltimore in 2004, then an even unsightlier 6.21 mark in '05 before he was released. He signed on with St. Louis in '06, making 13 starts before being released again. After a brief stint with the Yankees later in '06, he made seven starts with the Twins in 2007.
A number of problems -- not just on the field -- plagued the right-hander. He was out of shape, his concentration wavered at times and he dealt with significant alcohol issues. Ponson's release from the Orioles came after an arrest for DUI in August of 2005. However, he said he's kicked alcohol abuse as well as recommitting himself to pitching.
"I watched baseball last year," said Ponson, who has been working out with former big league pitcher Carlos Castillo. "I watched games on ESPN. I think I'm better than some pitchers in the big leagues, but what I think doesn't matter. It's what the team thinks. I just want to get a chance to show I can pitch in the big leagues again and go from there."
He would prefer to pitch as a starter, but did not rule out the option of relieving. Ponson also said that under the right circumstances, he would be open to a Minor League assignment before returning to a Major League roster.
Ponson made three starts for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League in December, putting up a 1.23 ERA in 14 2/3 innings. He struck out eight, walked four and didn't allow a home run. He said he's already in shape to go five or six innings, if someone will just give him a shot.
"I'm not going to be picky," he said. "I just want a chance to pitch again. I don't know what's going on. That's my agent's job, to talk to the teams who have called him, and we'll go from there."
In addition to his attitude, Ponson definitely has a new look. Not only is he lighter, he's visibly slimmer than the last time he was seen in Jupiter. He attributed the change to plenty of exercise as well as a change in diet.
"I stopped eating ice cream," he said. "You go to rehab and they tell you, you're always going to substitute a habit with a different habit. Lucky me, I substituted alcohol with ice cream. I should have substituted with salad. It would have been much better."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.