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Mazzilli: This isn't a punishment

JUPITER, Fla. -- Sidney Ponson was dropped to the fourth
spot in the Baltimore Orioles' rotation, a decision manager Lee
Mazzilli insists is not a disciplinary measure for his
off-the-field behavior.

Ponson spent 11 days in an Aruban jail after he punched a judge
in a Christmas Day brawl, and was arrested in Florida less than a
month later for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Then, on Tuesday, the right-hander hurt his pitching hand in a
scuffle that Ponson contends was started by an intoxicated man in a
restaurant.

After he returned to Aruba to stand trial on assault charges,
Ponson's spring training debut was delayed while he waited to
obtain a work visa. He is 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA in eight innings,
numbers that led Mazzilli to put Ponson behind Rodrigo Lopez,
Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard in the starting rotation.

"One, he's missed a little bit and I want to make sure he's
stretched out," Mazzilli said Saturday. "I looked at the
matchups, and that the other kids got past what they need to get
past, innings-wise."

Lopez and Bedard have each pitched 21 innings this spring, and
Cabrera has gone 17. Cabrera has a 3.00 ERA and Bedard is 3-0 with
a 2.11 ERA.

"I just felt that I liked what I saw out of the other two guys,
and this is the way I want to go," Mazzilli said.

Ponson, who started on opening day for the Orioles last season,
is scheduled to make his 2005 debut on April 8 at Yankee Stadium.

Asked if the decision was partially motivated by a desire to
discipline the pitcher, Mazzilli replied, "You look at things, you
put things in perspective, and you never want to cut your nose to
spite your face and do something rash. You've got to think what the
right move is for the club and what I think is the best way to go.
That's the spot that he fits into for me right now."

Mazzilli said the No. 5 starter will be determined later. Bruce
Chen, Matt Riley and Rick Bauer are the leading candidates.