Yankees add Ponson to help fill out rotation

Updated: July 14, 2006, 7:15 PM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider

Right-hander Sidney Ponson, who became a free agent when he was released by the St. Louis Cardinals, has signed a contract with the New York Yankees.

Starting Pitcher
St. Louis Cardinals

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM W L BB K ERA
14 4 4 29 33 5.24

Ponson, 4-4 with a 5.24 ERA in 14 appearances with St. Louis this season, lost his spot in the rotation when the Cardinals signed Jeff Weaver, but the Yankees hope he will make an immediate impact.

"He's still got a great arm," Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman said. Since Ponson cleared waivers Wednesday, the Yankees will be responsible for the pro-rated portion of the minimum salary -- between $150,000 and $175,000 -- for the rest of this season. St. Louis will pay the rest of Ponson's $1 million salary.

Ponson helps fill a void at the back end of Joe Torre's rotation. Mike Mussina, 10-3 with a 3.24 ERA, is the only New York starter with an ERA under 4.00.

After Shawn Chacon pitched poorly as the No. 5 starter, the Yankees tried Kris Wilson on Sunday in Tampa Bay. Wilson, formerly of the Royals, lasted 2 2/3 innings in a 6-5 loss to the Devil Rays.

"We looked and compared him to what we had right now and felt it was a shot worth taking, especially since we don't have to give up players from our system," Cashman said Thursday. "The whole package fit with what we're trying to accomplish."

Ponson signed a $1 million contract with St. Louis for the current season. He started 3-0, but slumped and got sent to the bullpen. The Cardinals designated him for assignment last Friday.

"We didn't think we had a real good role for him, which would have put him in a tough spot," Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa told the Associated Press. "The Yankees can start him and he can prove what he can do. I won't be surprised if he does well."

Ponson's agent, Barry Praver, said other teams showed interest in Ponson. He declined to name them, but Boston was believed to be among them.

"Sidney viewed the Yankees as the best opportunity for him personally and professionally," Praver told the AP.

Ponson is set to make his first start for the Yankees on Tuesday night at home against Seattle.

Ponson won 17 games in 2003 when he pitched for Baltimore and San Francisco, then signed a three-year, $22.5 million contract with Baltimore in January 2004 but has struggled on and off the field since then. On Christmas Day 2004, Ponson was arrested for allegedly assaulting a judge during a dispute at a beach in his native Aruba. Ponson spent 11 days in jail, but the charges were eventually dropped. The Orioles released him last September after his second arrest in 2005 on a charge of drunken driving.

Ponson has a career record of 80-95 with a 4.83 ERA in nine seasons with Baltimore, San Francisco and St. Louis. He'll slide into the fifth spot in the Yankees' rotation behind Mussina, Randy Johnson, Chien-Ming Wang and Jaret Wright.

"It's hard to upgrade your pitching, it really is," Cashman said. "Hopefully, this is something that will work out for us. It's low risk and hopefully we'll get some upside out of this."

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider. Information from The Associated Press was also used.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer