Left-hander gets minor-league contract

Updated: February 23, 2004, 2:31 AM ET
Associated Press

Kansas City Royals: The Royals signed left-hander Greg Swindell to a minor-league contract Sunday and invited him to spring training.

Swindell has a 113-122 career record with a 3.86 ERA. He did not pitch in the majors last season. In 2002, he went 0-2 with a 6.27 ERA in 34 relief appearances with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

If Swindell makes the team, he would earn the major league minimum $300,000.

If Jeremy Affeldt returns to the rotation, the Royals would have a spot for a left-handed reliever.

Affeldt was Kansas City's primary left-handed reliever last season after a recurring finger blister knocked him out of the rotation. Affeldt had part of a finger nail permanently removed in December, and the Royals believe it has alleviated the blister problem.

Jamie Cerda, acquired in a trade last month with the New York Mets, is the only left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster. Kansas City also invited left-handed relievers Mike Venafro, Les Walrond and Dennys Reyes to camp.

Baltimore Orioles: Summoned by Lee Mazzilli for a meeting in the manager's office, Sidney Ponson approached the door with more than a small measure of trepidation.

"I thought I did something wrong," Ponson said.

Actually, because the right-hander did so many things right last year, Ponson was told by Baltimore's new manager that he would be the Orioles' starting pitcher on opening day April 4 against the Boston Red Sox.

It will be the first such honor for Ponson, now the ace of the staff after opening the 2003 season as the No. 4 pitcher in the Orioles' rotation.

"I can tell you right now, Sidney will be our opening day pitcher -- barring anything that arises," Mazzilli said Sunday. "We signed him for a reason."

Ponson never had a winning season in the major leagues until last year, when he went 14-6 with the Orioles before being traded to the San Francisco Giants minutes before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

After receiving little run support in going 3-6 with San Francisco, Ponson became a free agent and signed a $22.5 million, three-year contract with Baltimore last month.

"He made his mind up that I'll be his ace, and he let me know that the first day of spring training," Ponson said. "You know you have to prepare for that day. You don't have to shuffle things around; now I can put my schedule together and work off that."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press