Mazzilli: This isn't a punishment

Updated: March 27, 2005, 10:33 AM ET
Associated Press

JUPITER, Fla. -- Sidney Ponson was dropped to the fourth spot in the Baltimore Orioles' rotation, a decision manager Lee Mazzilli insists is not a disciplinary measure for his off-the-field behavior.

Sidney Ponson
Starting Pitcher
Baltimore Orioles
33 11 15 0 115 5.30

Ponson spent 11 days in an Aruban jail after he punched a judge in a Christmas Day brawl, and was arrested in Florida less than a month later for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Then, on Tuesday, the right-hander hurt his pitching hand in a scuffle that Ponson contends was started by an intoxicated man in a restaurant.

After he returned to Aruba to stand trial on assault charges, Ponson's spring training debut was delayed while he waited to obtain a work visa. He is 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA in eight innings, numbers that led Mazzilli to put Ponson behind Rodrigo Lopez, Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard in the starting rotation.

"One, he's missed a little bit and I want to make sure he's stretched out," Mazzilli said Saturday. "I looked at the matchups, and that the other kids got past what they need to get past, innings-wise."

Lopez and Bedard have each pitched 21 innings this spring, and Cabrera has gone 17. Cabrera has a 3.00 ERA and Bedard is 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA.

"I just felt that I liked what I saw out of the other two guys, and this is the way I want to go," Mazzilli said.

Ponson, who started on opening day for the Orioles last season, is scheduled to make his 2005 debut on April 8 at Yankee Stadium.

Asked if the decision was partially motivated by a desire to discipline the pitcher, Mazzilli replied, "You look at things, you put things in perspective, and you never want to cut your nose to spite your face and do something rash. You've got to think what the right move is for the club and what I think is the best way to go. That's the spot that he fits into for me right now."

Mazzilli said the No. 5 starter will be determined later. Bruce Chen, Matt Riley and Rick Bauer are the leading candidates.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press