Sidney Ponson's Breakthrough
Pitching Like an Ace at Last
With a career-high 14 victories through Sunday, Orioles righthander Sidney Ponson is finally proving that he has what it takes to be a frontline starter. He's had a good fastball throughout his six-year career, but the biggest difference between 2002, when he went 7-9, and this year has been his self-control.
In the past Ponson suffered from so many mound meltdowns that the Baltimore brass even discussed turning him into a closer. But this year Ponson learned to tame his temper.
"Don't get me wrong, I still get pissed off," says Ponson, who turned down a three-year, $15 million offer from the Orioles last week and can become a free agent after the season. "But it's like [manager Mike Hargrove] said, 'Sit back, mink about what you did and think about the next three hitters you're going to face.' That's what I'm doing now."
Another factor in Ponson's recent success is run support. The Orioles are scoring 6.5 runs per start for Ponson this season compared with 4.1 in '02. Otherwise, Ponson's numbers (3.64 ERA, .256 opponents' batting average, 6.2 strikeouts and 8.9 hits per nine innings) closely mirror those of last season (4.09, .258, 6.1 and 8.8).
Ponson has also become a smarter pitcher: Instead of throwing occasional 98-mph heaters, he has used more off-speed pitches and has even taken something off his fastball to better locate it. Last Thursday at Yankee Stadium, Ponson, who was 0-8 in his last 14 career starts against New York, outpitched Roger Clemens, his boyhood idol, by scattering six hits in 8? innings to finally beat the Yankees, 5-3.
Cincinnati Cleans House
Bowden, Boone Take the Fall
Just as Pittsburgh, Detroit and Milwaukee have done since 2000, Cincinnati fired key decision-makers after they failed to put a decent team into a new ballpark On Monday, with the Reds in fifth place in the NL Central (46-58), owner John Allen fired G.M. Jim Bowden and manager Bob Boone after the team had won only 22 of the first 51 games in Great American Ball Park.
Bowden constructed a club that has woeful pitching and defense, while the contracts of oft-injured veterans Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin ate up more man a third of the $58 million payroll. In 11 years Bowden's teams had four winning seasons and reached the playoffs once. Boone, known as a meddlesome micromanager, has never had a winning season in eight years as a minor league and major league manager, including the past three in Cincinnati.
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