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Pitching Like an Ace at Last Sidney Ponson's Breakthrough


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

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, think 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 2/3 innings to finally
beat the Yankees, 5-3.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON (PONSON) With control of his temper, Ponson has begun to fulfill hispotential as a No. 1 starter.