- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 19, 2001


BALTIMORE It wasn't hard to spot the scouts seated behind home plate at last night's game at Camden Yards, nor was it hard to figure out who they were there to see: Baltimore Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson, who has piqued the interest of numerous clubs since word got out he was no longer untouchable.
While Ponson certainly did nothing to hurt his standing, pitching seven solid innings in the Orioles' 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, the scouts might well have left gushing over two of the pitcher's young teammates.
Rookie shortstop Brian Roberts, in his fifth major league game, tripled and scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh and made a highlight-reel defensive play in the fourth. Fellow rookie Jay Gibbons, facing the Toronto organization that exposed him in last winter's Rule 5 draft, went 3-for-4 with a home run and a double, providing the Orioles with the early offense they needed to set up the eventual game-winner that moved Baltimore ahead of Toronto for third place in the AL East.
"Whether they want to trade you or not, you have no control," said Ponson, the 24-year-old right-hander who has started to show signs that he can be a dominating starter in this league. "Whatever happens, happens. Right now I'm on this team and I'm worried about these 24 guys with me. The rumors that are going around right now, I don't care."
Knotted in a 2-2 game since the third inning, the Orioles broke the tie in the seventh on back-to-back extra-base hits by Roberts and David Segui. Facing reliever Pedro Borbon (1-3) not to mention a Toronto outfield playing in against the diminutive shortstop Roberts sent a fly ball off the wall at one of the deepest points in the ballpark. The rookie coasted into third with a stand-up triple, his first as a major leaguer.
"I've been comfortable from Day One, really," said Roberts, who has hit safely and scored a run in all five games with the Orioles. "I'm not going to come up here and try to change the way I've always played. They wouldn't be getting what they thought they'd be getting."
Blue Jays rookie manager Buck Martinez then brought in right-hander Bob File to turn Segui around to the left side of the plate, where his batting average (.274) drops 116 points.
It didn't matter which way he swung the bat because Segui drilled File's 1-0 pitch inside the first-base bag and down the line for a run-scoring double that put Baltimore ahead 3-2.
With Ponson already having thrown 111 pitches over seven innings, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove handed the game over to his slowly recovering bullpen, which was pushed to the brink of exhaustion over the weekend in Philadelphia. Left-hander Chuck McElroy, who has been highly effective as Baltimore's long reliever, was used in a setup situation for the first time and responded by retiring the side in order in the eighth.
Right-hander Mike Trombley, who gave up three runs without retiring a batter Sunday in Philadelphia, entered in the ninth and struck out Alex Gonzalez on a wicked slider to notch his fifth save.
If he was trying to make an impression, Ponson (4-4) sure got off on the wrong foot, giving up three straight hits in the top of the first off fastballs. Blue Jays leadoff hitter Shannon Stewart laced a sinking line drive to center field that scooted past a diving Melvin Mora for an easy triple. Gonzalez followed with an RBI single up the middle, moved to third on a double by Raul Mondesi and scored on Jose Cruz's groundout.
"What I think he was trying to do was go with his two-seam [fastball] and sink the ball in on them," Hargrove said of Ponson's approach to the first three batters. "It just wasn't working. He was leaving the ball over the plate."
Ponson, who was pulled during his last start with a stiff forearm, settled down after that. Though at least one Blue Jay reached base in five of the next six innings, not one made it past second.
"I just made better quality pitches after those three hitters," Ponson said. "The most important thing for me today was that I threw pain-free and I kept the ball down."
The Orioles, meanwhile, chipped away at the 2-0 defecit. Gibbons clubbed his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot down the right-field line in the bottom of the second.
"It was good to see a couple guys I played with in the minor leagues," Gibbons said of facing the team that gave up on him. "They're the reason I'm here, a big part of it. So there's no animosity."
One inning later, Brady Anderson turned a single to center into three bases when Cruz bobbled the ball and Toronto starter Steve Parris tossed a wild pitch. Jeff Conine later singled to left to bring Anderson home with the tying run.
Baltimore nearly took the lead in the bottom of the sixth when, with the bases loaded and one out, Jerry Hairston sent a fly ball to shallow right field. But Mora, trying to tag up, was gunned down by right fielder Raul Mondesi, who fired a strike on the fly to catcher Darrin Fletcher for his league-leading 10th outfield assist.

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