The New York Yankees have similar questions about their rotation, but they’re happy to have the right-hander - particularly if he performs like he did in his last outing.
Coming off one of his best starts of the season, Ponson returns to Arlington on Wednesday for the first time since Texas released him two months ago, as he’ll try to help the Yankees avoid a third straight loss to the surging Rangers.
Ponson (6-2, 4.23 ERA) was 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA in nine starts for Texas (60-54) in the first two months of 2008, but he was designated for assignment on June 6 “for disrespecting teammates and club personnel,” according to Rangers general manager Jon Daniels.
After failing to work out a trade for Ponson, Texas - which at the time had a major league-worst 5.10 ERA - released him June 16, and two days later he was signed to a minor league deal by the Yankees (61-52).
“We’ll survive,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said at the time of Ponson’s release. “He was pitching well … but I don’t miss him. The guy can pitch but it just didn’t work out.”
Ponson - who pitched in five games with New York in 2006 - has been up and down in his second stint in the Bronx, but he was at his best in his latest start. He gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday as the Yankees lost 1-0.
Ponson is 2-1 with a 4.81 ERA with the Yankees, and he turned in a poor effort against the Rangers on July 2. He gave up seven runs and nine hits over five innings and left trailing 7-6, but 12 runs by New York in the final two innings got him off the hook in the team’s 18-7 win.
The Yankees could use another strong - and lengthy - outing from Ponson on Wednesday. They haven’t had a starter last more than five innings in the last three games, and have the worst ERA in the majors since July 27 at 7.29.
Andy Pettitte gave up five runs in five innings Tuesday as New York fell 8-6, its second loss in as many games of this series and fourth in five games against the Rangers this season.
“These were two hard losses, games we had a chance to win,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You’ve got to put it behind you.”
Texas’ ERA has risen to 5.26 - worst in the AL - since Ponson’s departure, but it’s winning games without him around. The Rangers were 35-36 when Ponson was released, but despite having a staff full of inexperienced pitchers and journeymen, are 25-18 since.
One of those pitchers just getting acquainted with the majors is rookie Tommy Hunter (0-0, 10.80). The 22-year-old right-hander struggled in his big league debut Friday, giving up six runs over five innings against Toronto, but the Rangers scored three times in the bottom of the ninth to win 9-8.
Texas leads the major leagues in runs (648) and it’s certainly been hitting well recently. The Rangers have 25 runs in their last three games, led by outfielder Marlon Byrd, who’s batting .500 (6-for-12) with a homer, five RBIs and six runs during that stretch.
New York has outscored Texas 32-29 despite dropping four of five meetings this season.