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Ponson awaits matchup with Yankees, Big Unit

March 28, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - Just because he's the fourth man in the rotation, that doesn't necessarily mean that Sidney Ponson is the fourth-best starter on the Baltimore Orioles.

Rodrigo Lopez will start on opening day, followed by Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera. Then comes Ponson, whose relative inactivity this spring forced manager Lee Mazzilli to shove the right-hander into the fourth spot.

Ponson is scheduled to get his first start on April 8, in New York against the Yankees. If all goes as planned, Randy Johnson will be on the mound for the Yankees.

"I'm going against the Big Unit. What are you going to call me? No. 1 against No. 4?" Ponson said Sunday. "You guys can write it down if you want to."

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Ponson has pitched just eight innings this spring, in part because he failed to get a work visa after going to Aruba to stand trial on assault charges stemming from a Christmas Day brawl in which he punched a judge.

He was arrested in Florida less than a month later for driving under the influence of alcohol, and last week the right-hander hurt his pitching hand in a scuffle that Ponson contends was started by an intoxicated man in a restaurant.

Asked if he thought his off-the-field behavior contributed to his drop from the second slot in the rotation, Ponson answered, "Not really."

Ponson is 5-12 lifetime against New York, but he allowed only one run over 18 innings in his final two starts at Yankee Stadium last year.

"I'm going to go in there and throw strikes. I've got beat there before and I'll get beat again in the future," he said. "I'll win some games, too."

BAUER'S BID

Rick Bauer would prefer to be a starter, and with one week left before the season opener he's still got a shot at the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

"It doesn't really matter to me, as long as I make the 25-man roster," the right-hander said Sunday. "That's what I'm shooting for. I don't care what role it is."

Bauer has thrown primarily out of the bullpen since 2001, but hoped to compete for a starter's job this spring.

"I think they had in mind that if I threw well I would, and that's what I've done," Bauer said. "So I think it was more a matter of pitching my way into it."

He's 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA, but his determination has made an impression on the Orioles' brass.

"He came into camp in unbelievable shape. It was clear that he was on a mission," pitching coach Ray Miller said. "He's matured 100 percent in the way he goes about things. I think he's very usable as a starter and as a reliever."

Upon being sent to the minor leagues last July, Bauer declared, "They're trying to get rid of me. They said I can't pitch here. Deep down, I'm hurt. I've busted my butt for this organization, and to get kicked to the curb hurt."

He returned on Sept. 6, and pitched effectively the rest of the way. Now he appears on the verge of making the team out of spring training.

"I think just another year of experience helped," Bauer said. "I went through a lot of stuff last year, on and off the field. I think I threw real well at the end of the year, and that set the tone for this camp."

BIGBIE RETURNS

Playing for the first time in a week, Larry Bigbie marked his return to the Orioles with his third homer Sunday in an 11-3 loss to Minnesota.

The outfielder had been sidelined with a strained neck.

"I was happy to get back in there just to see some pitches," he said. "I was able to get one up and put a good swing on it."

He is tied for the team lead in homers with Sammy Sosa.

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