Yankees Expect to Sign Ponson

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By BEN WALKER
The Associated Press
Thursday, July 13, 2006; 6:49 PM

NEW YORK -- Sidney Ponson is about to get another chance, this time with the New York Yankees.

Ponson was cut by the St. Louis Cardinals last week and the Yankees, desperate to find a fifth starter, expect to sign the talented-but-troubled pitcher on Friday.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday the deal "made sense, compared to everything else that was available to us."

Once among baseball's more promising pitchers, Ponson's career was derailed by alcohol problems. Baltimore released him last September during a $22.5 million, three-year contract, saying his behavior gave them grounds to terminate his deal.

The 29-year-old righty was 4-4 with a 5.24 ERA for St. Louis.

"I think he's capable, so it wouldn't surprise me if he does well," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa manager said.

Ponson is set to make his first start for the Yankees on Tuesday night at home against Seattle. The Yankees will pay between $150,000 and $175,000 to sign Ponson for the rest of the season.

"It's hard to upgrade your pitching, it really is," Cashman said. "Hopefully, this is something that will work out for us. It's low risk and hopefully we'll get some upside out of this."

Ponson's agent, Barry Praver, said other teams showed interest in Ponson. He declined to name them, but Boston was believed to be among them.

"Sidney viewed the Yankees as the best opportunity for him personally and professionally," Praver said.

The Yankees were three games behind Boston in the AL East at the All-Star break. Ponson would join Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, Chien-Ming Wang and Jaret Wright in the rotation. Starter Shawn Chacon is still on the roster, too, but there's been speculation the Yankees will soon make a move with him.

Cashman said the Yankees believe Ponson is worth taking a chance on because he's made changes to his life.

"He's still got a great arm," he said.

Ponson signed a $1 million contract with St. Louis. He started the season 3-0, but slumped and got sent to the bullpen. The Cardinals designated him for assignment last Friday.

"We didn't think we had a real good role for him, which would have put him in a tough spot. The Yankees can start him and he can prove what he can do. I won't be surprised if he does well," La Russa said.

Ponson made his major league debut in 1998 with the Orioles and is 80-95 lifetime. He won 17 games in 2003 when he pitched for Baltimore and San Francisco, but has struggled on and off the field since then.

Ponson was convicted last December of driving while impaired and sentenced to five days in jail _ his arrest in August marked his third drunk driving offense. The pitcher also spent 11 days in jail in his native Aruba after fighting on a beach.

The NL Central-leading Cardinals acquired pitcher Jeff Weaver from the Los Angeles Angels two days before cutting Ponson.

"I was hoping he'd do well here," St. Louis center fielder Jim Edmonds said. "I liked him and he was classy, too.

"He called me and said, 'Did you hear I was released?' I didn't know what to say. He just wanted to call and thank me for everything."

___

AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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