Sidney Ponson’s turbulent career received another resuscitation before the All-Star break. Now he looks to prove to the New York Yankees their effort with the inconsistent right-hander won’t be wasted.
Ponson makes his debut in the Bronx on Tuesday and tries to help his new team stay on a roll as it continues a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners (44-49).
Ponson was 4-4 with a 5.24 ERA with the St. Louis Cardinals, who signed him to a $1 million contract in December. After losing four straight decisions, the team designated him for assignment on July 7 and he was picked up a week later by the Yankees (54-36).
“My agent called me and asked if I wanted to become a Yankee,” Ponson said. “I said ‘Do what you have to do to get me here.’ I’ve wanted to be a Yankee for a long time, but it never happened.”
In his ninth season in the majors, Ponson often has received more notoriety for his off-field issues than his pitching.
He has been arrested three times for drunk driving, including the latest on Aug. 25. He also spent 11 days in jail in his native Aruba after fighting on a beach. His issues led Baltimore to release him in September during his second go-around with the team. The Orioles said his behavior gave them grounds to terminate his three-year, $22.5 million contract.
Still, Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina believes Ponson can be a real asset to the club despite having just one season with a record above .500.
“If he’s healthy, and his head is in the right place, he can pitch,” said Mussina, who pitched with Ponson in Baltimore from 1998-2000. “He can eat up innings and get ground balls.”
The Yankees don’t have much to lose with Ponson. He will be the fourth person to try the No. 5 spot in the rotation after Shawn Chacon was demoted to the bullpen and Kris Wilson’s debut was a disaster. Reliever Aaron Small also started three games while Chacon was injured.
New York manager Joe Torre believes Ponson could be a good fit for the club as it tries to overtake the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
“He’s been down this road before,” Torre said. “He’s been on teams fighting for a pennant, so he’ll go out there and hopefully just be himself. I’ve seen him dominate games, so hopefully he can be comfortable enough to go out and do what he needs to do.”
Ponson is 2-4 with 4.79 ERA in 11 appearances against the Mariners (44-59).
His start comes during one of the Yankees’ best stretches of the season. Since a 19-1 home loss to the Cleveland Indians on July 4, New York has won eight of nine, including four straight. The team remained one-half game behind the Red Sox after a 4-2 win over the Mariners on Monday.
Johnny Damon was 3-for-4 while Jason Giambi hit his 28th homer of the year. Mariano Rivera put runners on first and third with no outs in the ninth, but retired the final three batters for his 22nd save in 24 opportunities this season and 401st of his career.
The Mariners will hand the ball to Joel Pineiro (6-8, 5.94 ERA), who hasn’t won since June 20. The right-hander is 0-1 in his last four starts, with the one loss coming in his most recent outing on July 7 against the Detroit Tigers. Pineiro went 7 2-3 innings, allowing six runs and 10 hits in the 6-1 loss.
“I made a couple of bad pitches, but I felt great and had good stuff,” he said. “From the beginning, I felt good, felt strong.”
Pineiro is 2-3 with a 3.42 ERA in nine appearances against the Yankees. He has lost his last three decisions against them.