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Fourteen-game winner joins NL West leader

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants paid a big price to get the
first-rate starting pitcher they coveted, acquiring 14-game winner
Sidney Ponson from the Baltimore Orioles at the trade deadline
Thursday for three pitchers.

San Francisco traded left-hander Damian Moss, promising rookie
right-hander Kurt Ainsworth and valuable left-handed prospect Ryan
Hannaman for Ponson, in the midst of his best major league season.

"You have to trade quality for quality,'' said Giants general
manager Brian Sabean, whose team has a big lead in the NL West
despite one of the shakiest starting rotations in the league.

"To get a 14-game winner who's pitching as well as he's
pitched, you'll have to give up something. ... We accomplished what
we needed to do, which was to bring a prize starter and hopefully
get some more innings out of a starter than we were getting.''

Ponson was 14-6 with a 3.77 ERA for Baltimore this season -- tied
for second in the AL in victories behind Toronto's Roy Halladay,
who has 15. Ponson, a native of Aruba, had won four straight starts
before losing to Minnesota Twins 5-1 Wednesday.

Ponson turned down a $15 million, three-year contract extension
from the Orioles on July 19, and the sides had exchanged proposals
since then without reaching an agreement. He is eligible for free
agency this winter, and Ponson was excited to be headed to a
contender.

"The negotiations had some influence on it,'' said Jim Beattie,
the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations.
"When we looked at the options, we felt this was the best thing to
do. We didn't talk to a lot of clubs. In the end, we felt this was
the only trade that makes us a better club.''

At 50-54, Baltimore has little chance of going to the playoffs.

"It wasn't a surprise I was getting traded,'' Ponson said from
Minneapolis. "The Giants are a really good baseball team. I'm
looking forward to meeting these guys, and I'm going to do
everything in my power to help my new team win it all.''

"It's one of the tougher ones I've had to do because I like
Sidney a lot,'' said Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove, who told
Ponson of the move. "I've got a job to do, and that's part of it.
I've got a special feeling for Sidney, and I will in 20 years --
unless he blows up my house or something.''

The Orioles got two pitchers who might be in their rotation for
years to come.

Moss, acquired from Atlanta last winter in a trade that sent
Russ Ortiz to the Braves, is 9-7 with a 4.70 ERA in 21 starts. He
began the season 5-0 but slumped badly, only returning to top form
in his last three starts.

Moss wouldn't comment on the trade as he left the Giants'
clubhouse Thursday after their loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Ainsworth, a former first-round draft pick widely considered a
future star, went 5-4 with a 3.82 ERA in 11 starts before going on
the disabled list with a broken shoulder blade. He isn't expected
to pitch again this season -- and with Barry Bonds and the Giants'
veteran roster looking to win now, Sabean felt comfortable trading
him.

"We want him to take it slow,'' Beattie said. "Our most
important goal is getting him healthy for next year.''

Hannaman will start with the Orioles' Class A affiliate in
Frederick.

For Sabean, the deal became vital when left-hander Kirk Rueter
was unable to make his scheduled start in Chicago on Thursday.
Rueter missed several turns in the rotation earlier in the month
with a shoulder injury that flared up again before his start
against the Cubs.

Despite their lofty record, the Giants' rotation is a patchwork
collection behind Schmidt, the NL starter in the All-Star game.
Schmidt was acquired from Pittsburgh two years ago in a deadline
deal similar to the one that brought Ponson to town.

"He is a horse, a No. 1 guy,'' Giants manager Felipe Alou said
in Chicago. "He's got some real good stuff. He throws hard, good
breaking ball, a good changeup. He's an imposing figure on the
mound.''

Rueter, the No. 2 starter, hasn't been healthy recently -- but
rookies Jesse Foppert and Jerome Williams have pitched surprisingly
well along with journeyman Jim Brower. San Francisco's bullpen has
been outstanding behind the starters, but Sabean doesn't want to
stretch the pen so much.

"That's exactly what we need right now: a guy that will not
just keep us in a game, but gives us a chance to win every time
out,'' Giants closer Tim Worrell said.

"If Sidney does for them what he did for us,'' Hargrove said,
"he'll be golden.''