StlToday.com wrote:The Cardinals have reached agreement on a one-year contract with free agent pitcher Sidney Ponson, who will attempt to resuscitate a once promising career following a troubled 2005 on and off the field.
The club is expected to announce the signing of the 29-year-old Aruban righthander this afternoon, according to a source familiar with negotiations. Terms haven't been disclosed but are expected to include numerous appearance incentives.
Tuesday's agreement occurred barely 24 hours after Ponson's release from a Baltimore jail, where he served five days for a drunk driving arrest in August. That arrest prompted the Orioles to void the remainder of his three-year, $22.5 million contract. That action prompted the Players Association to file a grievance on his behalf. The matter is pending.
The one-year contract represents minimal financial risk but a significant leap of faith by a Cardinals organization acutely sensitive to controversy. Ponson was arrested twice last year for DWI and submitted to a 30-day treatment program for alcoholism after his release by the Orioles. He also spent 11 days in an Aruban jail following an incident in which he punched a judge on a beach.
Before the Orioles released him, Ponson was due to make $10 million in 2006.
Ponson signed a three-year deal with the Orioles after going 17-12 with a 3.75 ERA in 2003, splitting the season between Baltimore and the San Francisco Giants. He owns a career 76-91 record and a 4.81 ERA. His problems have escalated since signing the multiyear deal, culminating in a 7-11 mark and 6.21 ERA in 23 games last season. Ponson was 0-6 in his last seven starts with the Orioles.
A strained calf sent Ponson to the disabled list before his second alcohol-related arrest in eight months caused the club to void his contract. By then, his relationship with Baltimore media had so deteriorated he refused all comment.
Until Tuesday, rookie Anthony Reyes was considered the favorite to move into the fifth starter's role for the Cardinals following the defection of Matt Morris to the Giants for a three-year, $27 million contract.
Ponson once served as the Orioles' ace. His one start against the Cardinals was a complete game win at Busch Stadium in 2003.
Ponson's career record is marred by numerous seasons of indifferent support. He never played for a winning team in Baltimore and assumed a heavy-innings load after reaching the major leagues at only 21. Ponson initially thrived under pitching coach Ray Miller but rebelled against Sammy Ellis and Mark Wiley. Ponson won at least 12 games in 1999, 2003 and 2004.
The last two seasons represented a dramatic reversal for a pitcher who finally had embraced the notion of working for ground balls rather than strikeouts. After holding opponents to a .257 average in 2003, Ponson allowed a .305 average in 2004 and a .337 mark and an average of 1.73 runners per inning last season. He failed to finish the third inning three times in his last seven starts.
Ponson will be a different looking pitcher. Since reaching the major leagues in 1998, he has pitched with his head shaved. Photographed leaving the central booking center following his arrest Monday, Ponson sported a full head of dark hair.
The Cardinals are expected to continue fleshing out their pitching staff by signing reliever Felix Rodriguez to a one-year deal as well. Should Rodriguez sign, general manager Walt Jocketty could project a 12-man staff for the first time since the majority of his bullpen and Morris filed for free agency or retired following last season. Octavio Dotel, whom the Cardinals had courted, signed a one-year deal with the New York Yankees on Tuesday.
I think Reyes is still the favorite to move into the fifth spot...