1:35 PM ET, April 3, 2005
Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Sidney Ponson finally gave a performance that Baltimore can feel good about.Ponson had easily his strongest effort so far, pitching six solid innings and hit a double in the Baltimore Orioles' 9-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.Ponson, who started on opening day for the Orioles last season, had off-field issues in the offseason and struggled during the spring, causing manager Lee Mazzilli to drop him to third in the starting rotation.Against the Phillies, Ponson walked two, struck out and allowed only two unearned runs."He was outstanding. It was exactly what we wanted out of him," Mazzilli said. "He was throwing in the 90s, good velocity, with a good sequence of pitches. I was very please"Ponson is scheduled to make his 2005 debut on April 8 at Yankee Stadium. If the Orioles need a pinch hitter, they could turn to Ponson after he showed some ability with the bat, doubling down the left-field line as part of a four-run fourth inning.Javy Lopez hit a two-run home run and Larry Bigbie followed with a solo shot in the fourth inning off against Phillies starter Corey Lidle. Ponson's double brought boos from the sparse crowd.Lidle gave up five runs and eight hits in four innings. Bobby Abreu and Placido Polanco each had RBI singles in the fifth.Phillies manager Charlie Manuel decided he's starting Polanco over Chase Utley at second base. Manuel avoided calling the situation a platoon, but said each player would split playing time."I wish I could play both of them, but that's how it is," Manuel said. "I feel like I've got two regular second baseman and that's not all bad. I feel like it makes the team stronger. I know both of them want to play. It's up to us to work it out."Polanco, a versatile infielder who has been a full-time starter in 2½ years in Philadelphia, is coming off his best season. He hit .298 with a career-high 17 homers and 55 RBI in 126 games.Polanco figured he would sign with another team as a free agent in the offseason, but didn't get many multiyear offers once the Phillies offered him arbitration. Teams didn't want to give Philadelphia a first-round pick for signing Polanco, so his options were limited.Utley, considered one of Philadelphia's top prospects, said he was disappointed in Manuel's decision and called this a "difficult situation all spring."Both Utley and Polanco said they would not be a distraction."We both agree we're good enough players to play everyday," Utley said. "We're in a tough situation."Manuel met with both players before Sunday's game and informed them of the decision."I always talk to my players," Manuel said. "They'll kind of know what I'm thinking."That kind of communication has already endeared him to his players, creating a positive atmosphere in the clubhouse. It's a big difference from former manager Larry Bowa, who wasn't popular among his players because of his intense, fiery demeanor.Polanco said the promise of increased playing time has his outlook "gradually going up.""I just hope it's going to get better," Polanco said. "The more at bats I'm going to get, the happier I'm going to be."Polanco finished 1-for-3; Utley 0-for-1.Larry Bigbie and Woody Cliffords both hit homers for the Orioles.