Sir Sidney’s last stand

When the Yanks took a 4-0 lead after the first inning yesterday, I optimistically figured that Sidney Ponson would be safe. When Ponson gave one of those runs back in the first inning, I told my parents I wouldn’t feel good about the game until the Yanks scored 12 runs. Little did I know how prescient my worries would turn out to be.

In the second inning, the missing Yankee offense scored another four runs. An 8-1 lead, that has to be safe, right? Well, Ponson gave up another run in the second and had to pitch his way out of a bases loaded, one out situation. His luck would not hold up.

Enjoying an 11-2 lead by the time the fourth inning rolled around, Ponson gave up a single, home run, single, walk. An error by Robinson Cano allowed the Tigers to load the bases, and Joe Girardi opted to remove Ponson from the game. Edwar Ramirez would allow all three inherited runners to score, and while Edwar would give up another run in the fifth, the Yanks would hold on to win 13-9. It was ugly, but it was a win. I’ll take it.

What I won’t take is another start from Sidney Ponson this weekend. On Monday, Ponson threw three innings, giving up six earned runs on nine hits and a walk. Over his last three outings, Ponson has thrown 9.2 innings, and he’s been utterly terrible. He’s allowed 24 hits and six walks — a WHIP of 3.10 — while giving up 17 ER for a 15.83 ERA. All of this has earned Ponson a stay in the rotation, according to Girardi.

Right now, I just don’t get it. What has Ponson done on the Yankees that warrants another start? He’s got a 6.36 ERA while on the Yankees, and he’s no longer giving the team innings. He also hasn’t won since August 6. In other words, he’s not doing anything that Ian Kennedy hasn’t done this year.

The Yankees aren’t out of it yet this year. To make the playoffs, they would have to overcome ridiculously long odds. To do that, they’ll have to put the best possible product on the field. Sidney Ponson just isn’t part of that product. Even when he was 3-1 on the Yankees, he was still allowing nearly two base runners per inning. Now, he’s not getting outs at all.

The Yanks could use Al Aceves. He had a great appearance on Sunday and would slot in nicely this weekend. They could use Chase Wright. They could attempt to throw Ian Kennedy again. Kennedy, admittedly a disappointment this year, could regain his 2007 form. At least Kennedy has the ability to surprise us. Nowadays, we know what we’re getting from Ponson, and it ain’t good.

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No thanks to Ponson, Yanks crush Rangers

In his first start for the Yankees, last Friday evening in Shea Stadium, Sidney Ponson was good if you didn’t look too closely. He threw six scoreless innings and emerged the victor in a game the Yankees won 9-0. But those were six rather dicey scoreless innings.

Through the first four innings of the Mets game, Ponson had put nine runners on base. He also struck out four and saw his defense turn a double play behind him. As I noted last week, Ponson was flirting with danger all night; the Mets just couldn’t bite.

Tonight, danger flirted back with Ponson in a big way. This time, Ponson managed to put 12 runners on base through four batters into the sixth inning. The Rangers, however, would not go down as easily as the Mets did. While the Yankee offense turned three double plays behind Ponson, eventually the Rangers broke through with a few runs in the third followed by a pair of two-run home runs in the sixth to chase Sir Sidney.

When that dust settled, Ponson’s tally on the evening was more in line with what we would have expected last week. He allowed 7 runs — all earned — on 9 hits and 3 walks. He struck out just one, and his ERA with the Yanks is now 5.77. He’s allowed 21 base runners in 11 innings.

In the end, Ponson’s pitching didn’t matter. The Yankees, as the narrative will have it tomorrow, responded to Hank’s threat and scored a season-high 18 runs on 16 hits, 7 walks and a few well-timed Rangers errors. They were aided by Ron Washington’s inexplicable decision to allow Warner Madrigal make his Major League debut in a one-run game against face Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi.

When the dust settled, this game tonight was half of just what the doctor ordered. The Yanks hit .390 as a team tonight with six extra-base hits. But on the other side of the ball, it doesn’t appear as though Sidney Ponson will be the answer to the gaping hole in the Yankee rotation. I’m sure he’ll get one more start against the red-hot Rays on Monday, but the only thing we can count on with Ponson is base runners. The Rays will have lots and lots of base runners.

How did the Yanks get to Ponson?

In a few hours, weather-permitting, Sidney Ponson will make his glorious return to the Bronx. It is a day we not long-awaited since Ponson was DFA’d by the Yankees on August 23, 2006, a whopping 40 days after they first signed him.

In Yankee-land, the Ponson start is stirring up most consternation. How did the Yankees get there? Typical of that response is an e-mail I received this morning from Steve S., a long-time RAB reader:

someone needs to say something about Cashman and this Ponson decision. Yes the Yankees have been riddled by injuries but these are the kinds of things that happen. And I cant help but think that he should have had the foresight to get a guy like Colon. I didn’t care as much at the time because I had the belief that they would focus on using young arms, but now I have to see Ponson?

Now, before launching into this subject, I believe that Ponson will, unless he blows away the Yanks (and Mets) tonight, be around for just one start. The Yanks got screwed by the schedule and even more screwed by the rain last night and needed a starter.

That being said, is it fair to lay the blame — if that’s what you want to call it — for Ponson on Brian Cashman‘s shoulders? Not really. It’s a low risk, high reward move, and if it doesn’t pan out, c’est la vie.

The Yankees are at this point right now because 3/5ths of their Opening Day starting rotation is on the DL. They’re at this point because, while they have some very promising and lively arms in their farm system, those arms aren’t quite yet ready. They’re at this point because they see Sidney Ponson as a more viable option for whatever reason than Jeff Karstens. They’re at this point basically due to dire circumstances, and it’s not the end of the world.

But what about Bartolo Colon? Should the Yanks have been higher on Colon than they were? Well, they saw the same audition the Red Sox and the other 28 teams that passed on Colon saw. They weren’t impressed with his velocity, and they didn’t see how a 35-year-old injury-plagued pitcher coming off of shoulder surgery fit in with the Yankees’ current approach toward constructing a baseball team. For a few starts, Colon made everyone look bad as he went 4-2 with a 4.09 ERA. But as is his wont, Colon went down with an injury, and Boston doesn’t really have a timetable for his return.

Now, would Colon have been a good pick-up in hindsight? Sure. But unlike the Red Sox and Curt Schilling, the Yanks weren’t facing any long-term injury prospects when Colon signed his deal. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

Having Ponson start tonight’s game is hardly ideal, but considering the circumstances, it’s not really worth holding Brian Cashman’s feet to the fire for it. He took someone 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA and is basically asking him to give the Yanks five innings of decent baseball once.

We’d rather see a young kid get a shot, but none of the young kids are quite ready for this. If only this game had been set for three weeks later when Alan Horne was more in his grove, Ian Kennedy had a few rehab starts under his belt and Alfredo Aceves had a chance to shine at AAA. Alas.

The Karstens/Ponson debate

It’s pretty hard to believe that, with their abundant Minor League talent, the Yankees are going to turn to Sidney Ponson to start a game this weekend against their crosstown rivals. But as numerous reports have noted, the Yankees have Ponson lined up to start against the Mets, and all signs — including a recent demotion to AA to clear an AAA for J.B. Cox — are pointing toward a Ponson sighting this Friday.

Now, before we get into the clear-cut alternative, let’s look at Ponson’s 2008 campaign. Before landing with the Yanks, Ponson had been pitching in Texas. He was DFA’d after serious questions arose about his attitude. On the season, Ponson’s numbers look good, right? He’s 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA. He has more wins than Joba!

But — and, as this is Ponson, we’ve got ourselves a big but — every important number of his is terrible. In 55.2 innings, he’s allowed 71 hits and 16 walks while striking out a whopping 25 batters. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 11.5 hits per 9 innings, 4.04 K/9 IP and a 1.56 K/BB ratio. Opponents are hitting .307/.353/.429 off of Sir Sidney. That’s the equivalent of facing Placido Polanco nine times.

In other words, Ponson has been extremely lucky this year. He’s allowed 1.56 runners per inning, and opponents are teeing off of Ponson. The fact that his ERA is only 3.88 is a testament to luck. He won’t be this good at all for the rest of the season.

So what’s our alternative? Why, Jeff Karstens, of course. As Mike noted, Karstens just pulled down IL Pitcher of the Week honors, and his Sunday outing lines him up to pitch the Friday game against the Mets. Mike Ashmore encourages the Yanks to catch lightening in a bottle by tossing a hot Karstens out there on Friday instead of Ponson.

I have to agree. Karstens can’t do any worse than Ponson, and the potential for him to do better is there. The only thing the Yanks have to lose is a Ponson start, and that is something I would gladly give up.