- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

From combined dispatches

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Baltimore Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson was scratched from his first spring training appearance because of visa problems associated with his court case in Aruba.

Ponson was slated to start against the Florida Marlins, but the right-hander learned yesterday morning that he could not pitch in a game in which admission is charged, according to rules set in place by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

It has been an unpleasant spring for Ponson since the Orioles opened their exhibition schedule on March 3. Ponson returned to Aruba that day to stand trial on assault charges stemming from a Christmas Day brawl in his homeland.

Ponson is accused of hitting an Aruban judge in the face after several people on a beach told the pitcher he was harassing people with his personal watercraft and operating it recklessly.

Judge Bob Wit postponed a ruling on the case, giving Ponson until May 10 to reach an out-of-court settlement. Wit said he took the pitcher’s career into consideration in postponing the case because Ponson’s U.S. work visa could be taken away if he is convicted.

In Ponson’s place, James Baldwin pitched four scoreless innings in the Orioles’ 5-0 victory. Left-hander Matt Riley was struck in the biceps by a liner off the bat of Alex Gonzalez in the fifth inning. He was removed from the game, but an exam of the injury revealed nothing more than a deep bruise.

Giambi homers off Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jason Giambi answered the boos with a blast — and the Yankees beat the Red Sox when it didn’t count.

Just 4½ months after Boston became the first major league baseball team to overcome a 3-0 deficit by beating New York in four straight games of the AL championship series, Giambi hit his first homer of spring training in the Yankees’ 9-2 exhibition win.

With fans chanting “Steroids!”, Giambi hit a solo shot in the fifth inning. The public face of baseball’s steroids controversy was booed before each of his five at-bats — he finished 2-for-5 and is 3-for-12 this spring.

Sabathia doubtful

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — C.C. Sabathia likely won’t start the season opener for the Cleveland Indians after tests revealed the left-hander strained a muscle on his right side.

Sabathia strained the oblique muscle while warming up for his scheduled start against Detroit on Sunday.

He has been ordered not to throw for a week — which would probably not give him enough time to get in shape to pitch the opener April 4 in Chicago. Right-hander Jake Westbrook probably would start the opener against the White Sox.

Straw’s back with Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Decked out in a Mets uniform for the first time in 15 years, a smiling Darryl Strawberry strolled into the dugout and flexed his left biceps.

“Don’t I look great?” he said, laughing.

And with that, the greatest hitter in team history was welcomed back to the Mets, where his roller coaster of a career began with such promise.

Strawberry arrived at spring training to serve as a guest instructor for a few days, working mostly with major and minor league outfielders.

“It’s not about me, it’s about who I can help,” he said. “It’s these guys’ time, it’s not my time. My time is over.”

Jackson says he’s OK

TAMPA, Fla. — Reggie Jackson was in good spirits Sunday night, two days after his sport utility vehicle was rear-ended by another SUV.

Jackson walked into a restaurant where several reporters and news photographers were finishing dinner, found out the kitchen was closed for the night and shook hands with the media members before leaving.

“Mr. October is doing OK,” he said into his cell phone before getting back in the passenger seat of an SUV that was driven by another person.

On Friday night, Jackson’s vehicle was stopped when an SUV “traveling at a high rate of speed” hit him from behind, Tampa police spokesman Joe Durkin said Saturday. Both vehicles flipped.

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