Sidney Ponson has a quite a task in front of him when he makes his Cardinals debut.
Ponson will try to help St. Louis avoid being swept at Wrigley Field for the first time in nearly five years when the Cardinals wrap up their series with the Chicago Cubs.
St. Louis has not dropped three in a row in Chicago since June 5-7, 2001.
The Cardinals (3-2) signed Ponson to a $1 million deal after he was released by Baltimore in September, partially because of alcohol-related problems.
The right-hander was convicted in December of driving while impaired and sentenced to five days in jail. His arrest in August marked his third drunk driving offense.
Ponson also spent 11 days in jail in his native Aruba after fighting on a beach and hitting a judge in December 2004.
Ponson was making $7.5 million last year with the Orioles, when he went 7-11 with a 6.21 ERA. He won 17 games in 2003 when he pitched for Baltimore and San Francisco, and was impressive in Cardinals camp this spring, going 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in four games including three starts.
“He’s gotten better every time, that’s how I’ve been describing it,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s got a history of durability and he’s done as much in this camp as he could.
“It’s all ahead of him, though.”
Ponson, who has pitched more than 200 innings four times his career, said he knows there will be a spotlight on everything he does in St. Louis.
“It’s going to play out when the season starts,” said Ponson, who is 76-91 and has a 4.81 ERA lifetime. “Old issues will rise and things like that, I know that, I’ve been in this game for so long.
“You lose a couple of games and they’re going to ask you if you’re doing this or doing that, and I have to deal with that.”
While Ponson makes his Cardinals debut, Sean Marshall will make his major league debut for the Cubs. The 6-foot-7 left hander was selected in sixth round of the 2003 draft and has never pitched above Double-A.
He has not pitched since March 31 when the Cubs faced San Diego in Las Vegas. He took the loss after allowing six earned runs and seven hits over 4 2-3 innings.
The Cubs (3-1) defeated their division rivals for the second straight day with a 3-2 victory Saturday. Derrek Lee, who is looking for a new contract from the Cubs, continued his power surge with a solo homer in the eighth inning to snap a 2-2 tie.
It marked the first time Lee has homered in three straight games since April 2-4, 2002 against Montreal, when he was with the Florida Marlins.
“This guy has emerged as one of the greats in this game,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
Lee has just two hits, including a triple, in six career at-bats against Ponson.
Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols has gone 0-for-7 in the first two games against the Cubs. He went 5-for-10 with three homers and six RBI during St. Louis’ three-game sweep of Philadelphia to start the season.