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DuBose Takes a Pounding

A Bad Week Gets Worse As Twins Shellack Orioles

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 28, 2005; Page D07

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 27 -- The same man who kicked off an active and exhausting week for the Baltimore Orioles paced off the mound Sunday after a disastrous outing, a fitting end to seven days of controversy. He had not secured a spot in the team's rotation, and seemingly had sent himself to the minors, but perhaps not to Class AAA Ottawa, because of a driving under the influence charge that could keep him from acquiring a work visa in Canada.

Eric DuBose had been a rather passive spectator at Baltimore's camp until his arrest Monday morning made his name noteworthy. He came to symbolize an Orioles camp turned into an episode of "Cops" in just seven days.


Orioles catcher Javy Lopez tries to calm Eric DuBose, who allowed seven first-inning runs to the Twins. (James A. Finley -- AP)

_____Orioles Notebook_____
Ponson Accepts Spot

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 27 -- Sidney Ponson's estrangement from the media lasted just one day. The pitcher talked to reporters on Sunday, a day after being demoted to the fourth starter in the rotation.

"They have their reasons," Ponson said. "I'm not going to argue. Whatever. It doesn't matter to me where I make my first start."

Ponson will make his season debut April 8 against the New York Yankees. If the Yankees don't tinker with their rotation, Ponson could face Randy Johnson. The Yankees have two off days after Johnson makes his season debut next Sunday. New York has not announced its starting rotation.

"I'm going on Friday against the Big Unit," Ponson said. "What are you going to call me? Number one against number four? You guys can write it down if you want to."

Ponson said he didn't think he was being disciplined for his off-field transgressions this offseason: an altercation with a judge in Aruba, a DUI three weeks later and an altercation in a Fort Lauderdale restaurant last week.

Next Year for Ainsworth

Pitcher Kurt Ainsworth had surgery on Tuesday to repair a partially torn labrum and rotator cuff, and a divot in his right shoulder socket. He will miss the season, and the team hopes Ainsworth will be recovered by the time spring training starts next year. Noted specialist, James Andrews, performed the surgery in Birmingham. Ainsworth was a candidate for the team's fifth spot in the rotation at the start of spring training. Ainsworth had said he would contemplate retirement if his injury was serious. But after finding out the results of the MRI exam, Ainsworth decided to try to return next season. . . .

Outfielder Larry Bigbie returned to the lineup. He had been out since March 20 because of a strained neck. He homered in the third inning.

"I feel fine," Bigbie said. "It was one of those freak things that happened."

_____Spring Training_____
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A day after DuBose's DUI arrest, Sidney Ponson was involved in an altercation at a local bar. On Thursday, it was discovered Ponson had been arrested and charged with DUI in January, a charge he hid from the club. Ponson's troubling week ended when he was demoted to the fourth spot in the rotation.

DuBose's performance on Sunday in the Orioles' 11-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins brought back into focus the roster issues the team faces prior to heading back to Baltimore next Sunday.

The next seven days for the Orioles will prove just as newsworthy, perhaps for different reasons. In the final week of spring training, the Orioles' roster will take final form. Questions remain about the starting rotation, bullpen and bench. The starting lineup is all but finished. The only question remains whether Manager Lee Mazzilli prefers to use Larry Bigbie, Melvin Mora or Jay Gibbons in the second spot.

"I'm still playing with it," Mazzilli said. "You're still looking for that number two hitter to jump out at me. So far this spring no one has jumped out at me."

Sunday's number two hitter, Bigbie, homered.

"I don't mind it really," Bigbie said. "I think there I get a little more protection. But even hitting eighth in this lineup, it's a little more protection."

Enrique Wilson and Chris Gomez are fighting for one of the available bench spots. Gomez appears to have an edge simply because he is signed to a major league contract while Wilson is signed to a minor league deal. Both players have had good springs.

"Not 100 percent on that, but I have a pretty good idea where I want to go," Mazzilli said.

Geronimo Gil and Sal Fasano are competing for the backup catcher job. While Gil is arguably a better player, Fasano is more capable of handling the pitching staff, perhaps an important attribute with such a young group of pitchers.

Four parts of the rotation are set with Rodrigo Lopez, Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera and Ponson. The fifth spot remains in question and no candidate has distinguished himself. Last week, Mazzilli said he had three candidates (Rick Bauer, Bruce Chen and Matt Riley). On Sunday, he added another: DuBose.

"I have an idea what I want to do but it seems nobody wants to grab it," Mazzilli said. "Same thing with the two hole. I have a week to sort that out."

DuBose perhaps left a disappointing last impression, allowing nine earned runs in four innings -- seven in the first inning. He likely will throw in a minor league or simulated game this week.

"I got my work in but it wasn't the work that I wanted to get," DuBose said. "That's their decision to make. Obviously, that's not the note I wanted to leave in their minds. It happens."

Mazzilli did not eliminate DuBose from contention.

"You're not going to base it on four innings of work," Mazzilli said. "You'd like to see him pitch well for himself as well. But that doesn't exclude him from that possibility."

The favorite appears to be Bauer, who will pitch in a major league exhibition game on Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals in Oklahoma City. The other contenders will not make another major league exhibition start this spring. Mazzilli said his roster might not be set until Saturday.

For DuBose, the end of the week was a welcome relief.

"Stuff happened early on off the field," DuBose said. "But that's stuff you leave behind and learn from it."

With a sullen expression, he exited the Orioles' clubhouse. Another anxious week awaited him.


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