Ponson, Twins agree on minor league contract

Updated: January 3, 2007, 7:40 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Sidney Ponson will try again this spring to revive his once-promising career, and the Minnesota Twins will feel a little bit better about their rotation if he's successful.

Ponson and the Twins agreed Wednesday to a minor league contract, a deal that could be worth as much as $3 million. Ponson would get a $1 million, one-year contract if he's added to the 40-man roster and would have the chance to earn $2 million more in performance bonuses.

With Francisco Liriano out for the year following major elbow surgery, Minnesota has only three set starting pitchers heading into spring training: AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, Carlos Silva and Boof Bonser. Plus, Silva is coming off a bad season and Bonser has only 18 career starts.

Ponson, a native of Aruba, won 17 games in 2003 with Baltimore and San Francisco, but his career has been set back by alcohol and weight problems.

He was the opening-day starter for the Orioles in 2004, but his contract was terminated by his original organization in September 2005 -- following his second arrest that year for drunken driving. Ponson went to an alcohol rehabilitation facility and regularly saw a psychiatrist after that.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan said he was satisfied that Ponson has put his problems in the past.

"Hopefully he can help us and we can help him," said Ryan, who was most intrigued by Ponson's durability, having pitched 215-plus innings in 2004.

Ponson was 4-4 with a 5.24 ERA in 13 starts and one relief appearance for St. Louis last year, then was let go on July 7. He signed with the Yankees a week later, but went 0-1 with a 10.47 ERA in three starts and two relief appearances and was cut Aug. 19.

A 30-year-old right-hander, Ponson is 80-96 with a 4.89 ERA in 238 career starts and 14 relief appearances. He has spent seven-plus of his nine major league seasons with Baltimore.

Minnesota also agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Brad Voyles, who sat out most of last season with the Cardinals organization because of a knee problem. Voyles, who appeared in parts of three seasons with the Kansas City Royals from 2001-03, has been pitching in the Venezuelan winter league, and Ryan received a positive report.

Voyles will also be looked at as a possible starter. With pitchers and catchers set to report on Feb. 18, the Twins are still looking for experienced starters to compete in camp with prospects Scott Baker, Matt Garza, Glen Perkins and others.

If added to the 40-man roster, Voyles would get a contract that would pay him $390,000 in the majors and $75,000 in the minors.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press