Orioles 5, Cardinals 5

Although the Baltimore Orioles have penciled in Sidney Ponson as their No. 3 starter, a second straight rocky outing today by Ponson may have raised questions about his readiness, with Opening Day a week and a half away.

Ponson was tagged for seven hits and five earned runs in five innings in a 5-5 tie against the St. Louis Cardinals, which was called after 12 innings when the visiting Orioles ran out of pitchers. Having allowed 11 runs in his last two starts, Ponson's spring ERA, which stood at 1.50 two starts ago, has ballooned to 5.68.

Ponson displayed a curious aversion to throwing his fastball today, relying mainly on his slider. "He didn't seem to trust his fastball," Manager Mike Hargrove said. "I don't know why."

Ponson left Roger Dean Stadium today without talking to reporters, a rarity for the normally gregarious right-hander.

Although Ponson had a partially torn labrum diagnosed last season and chose to pitch through it without having surgery, Hargrove said he believes Ponson is healthy.

"I'm not worried about him," Hargrove said. "His velocity looked fine."

However, Hargrove said he had not seen actual radar readings from Ponson's outing.

The Orioles have six starting pitchers in camp competing for five spots and -- barring a trade -- may be looking for a candidate to stash on the disabled list at the beginning of the season.

If the Orioles do trade a starter, Ponson, only 26 and one year away from free agency, is the likeliest candidate, and most of his starts have been highly attended by scouts from other teams.

Orioles Notes: The Orioles announced today that the scheduled March 28 exhibition game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore against the New York Mets has been moved to Fort Lauderdale Stadium, the Orioles' spring training headquarters.

The game will be played at 1:05 p.m., and the March 29 exhibition between the Orioles and Mets will be played as scheduled at Shea Stadium in New York at 1:10 p.m. Opening Day for the Orioles will be March 31 against the visiting Cleveland Indians.

"With the rough weather this winter, the grounds crew needed the extra days to get the field ready for Opening Day," Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said.

However, the move may also have something to do with the fact that ticket sales for the exhibition game were so slow, the team had been giving away tickets.

Fans holding tickets for the March 28 exhibition game -- whether bought or comped -- can exchange them for tickets to any April regular season game.

Cardinals' Mike Matheny is out trying to score as Orioles catcher Geronimo Gil lunges to make tag in fourth inning. Game ended in 5-5 tie.