- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco 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 yesterday 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 had a big 12-game lead in the National League West through Wednesday despite one of the league’s shakiest starting rotations. “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 American League in victories behind Toronto’s Roy Halladay, who has 15. Ponson, a native of Aruba, had won four straight starts before losing to the Minnesota Twins 5-1 on Wednesday.

Ponson turned down a $15million, three-year contract extension from the Orioles on July19, and the sides had exchanged proposals since then without reaching agreement. Ponson, who is eligible for free agency this winter, was excited to be headed to a contender.

“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.”

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

“These guys are so close to going .500 for the first time in five years,” Ponson said. “Hopefully, they’ll do it. The fans in Baltimore deserve it.”

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 before returning to top form in his last three starts.

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.

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

“We all know what Ainsworth means to the organization,” Sabean said. “Again, the innings and the type of pitcher Sidney is at this point is more attractive to us. … It reminds you a lot of what we went through scouting Jason Schmidt a couple of years ago, and we had to react a little bit to the circumstances of today.”

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.

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.

“Hopefully, [Ponson] will be the type of pitcher that we need,” Sabean said.

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