Rangers sign right-hander Ponson
Veteran will challenge for spot in Texas' starting rotation
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With Brandon McCarthy sidelined 4-6 weeks due to elbow inflammation, the Rangers have signed pitcher Sidney Ponson to a Minor League contract and added him to their Spring Training roster.Ponson, a 17-game winner in 2003 who has struggled both on and off the field the past four years, is expected to be in camp on Monday. Ponson was 2-5 with a 6.93 ERA in seven starts for the Twins last year and 82-101 with a 4.94 ERA in 259 career games, including 245 starts, with the Orioles, Giants, Cardinals, Yankees and Twins. "He's thrown all winter and we've seen him a few times," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He's down 20 pounds from what he was when he struggled the past couple of years. We talked with him about our expectations and he understands where he is at this point of his career. He feels he has something to prove." Ponson, 31, a native of Aruba, was 17-12 with a 3.75 ERA in 31 starts for the Orioles and the Giants in 2003. But he is 24-36 with a 5.86 ERA over the past four seasons and hasn't pitched since the Twins released him on May 22. He was also arrested once for assault in 2004 in Aruba and twice for driving under the influence in the United States in 2005. He has seen been through a rehabilitation program. Rangers international scout Jesus Halabi was the one who recommended the signing. Halabi originally signed Ponson for the Orioles and has been a mentor for him in dealing with his off-field troubles. "I got released from Minnesota and mentally I was frustrated, and so I took the year off -- and now I'm ready to rock and roll again," Ponson said after he threw for scouts last week in Florida. "My mind is clear. My arm is good. I'm working hard. I'm in pretty good shape." Ponson is one candidate to replace McCarthy, who is not expected to be ready to be in the Rangers rotation at the beginning of the season. McCarthy has severe inflammation in his right elbow/forearm area and Daniels said he should be out a minimum 4-6 weeks. "We're probably looking at the 4-6 week range before he's 100 percent and back up throwing multiple innings," Daniels said. "It's unrealistic, barring a quick recovery, that he would open as one of the five starters. We'll stay open-minded if the recovery goes quicker but we're not pushing him. A few weeks into the season is more likely."
McCarthy, who will start the season on the disabled list, will return to Dallas Monday and receive an injection that will spin his blood and inject platelets back into the elbow. The procedure is designed to speed up the recovery process. Then it's a matter of resting the arm until he is pain-free before beginning a throwing program.Dr. Keith Meister said there is no signs that McCarthy has ligament damage that would require Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. That's the worst case scenario but Meister told the Rangers that the ligament is clean. "Not having surgery is good but the situation overall still stinks," McCarthy said. Ponson joins several internal candidates as possibilities to replace Ponson in the rotation. The leading candidate is right-hander Luis Mendoza but the Rangers are also looking at rookie right-hander Eric Hurley as well. Left-handers A.J. Murray and Matt Harrison are also technically in contention but the Rangers seem to want them to begin the season in the Minor Leagues. Mendoza will start the Thursday's Cactus League game against the Colorado Rockies.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.