Rangers cut Ponson in surprise move

Rangers cut Ponson in surprise move

ARLINGTON -- Veteran pitcher Sidney Ponson's comeback came to an abrupt end on Friday, when the Rangers designated him for assignment before the night game against the Rays.

Ponson was 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA in nine starts for the Rangers and was an integral part of their resurgence since the end of April. However, a series of off-the-field incidents led the Rangers to drop him from the team.

"We're trying to put together a team of 25 guys pulling together," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Based on some recent comments, he did not want to be a part of that, and that's something we're not going to tolerate. We want guys who want to be here and want to pull for the team, and not guys who are here for their own self-interests."

The move leaves the Rangers without a fifth starter. Because they are off on Monday, they won't need a fifth starter until next Saturday at the latest, when they play the Mets at Shea Stadium. Daniels said it will likely be somebody called up from Triple A Oklahoma, either Kason Gabbard, Luis Mendoza, Dustin Nippert, Matt Harrison or possibly Eric Hurley.

"We haven't had a chance to discuss it yet," Daniels said. "Obviously, in the position we're in, the last thing you want is to lose a starter. We'll find somebody who wants the ball and will take it every fifth day. We've got some young kids who want to do that. We'll find somebody."

Daniels declined to discuss the specifics and Ponson was unavailable for comment, but team sources said Ponson was put on notice after creating a serious disturbance at the hotel bar in St. Petersburg during the team's last road trip. He was told that further problems would not be tolerated.

Two more incidents occurred this week. Ponson started with three days' rest on Wednesday against the Indians and allowed six runs in four innings. Only two were earned because of three errors committed behind him, and Ponson reacted furiously after being taken out. His actions were interpreted as "showing up" his teammates.

The second incident occurred when manager Ron Washington informed Ponson on Thursday that he would be pushed back in his next start so that Kevin Millwood could start Tuesday on his regular four days' rest. Ponson would have pitched on Wednesday on six days' rest. Ponson wasn't happy with that decision and made his feelings clear in a heated discussion with the manager.

That led the Rangers to the decision to drop Ponson before Friday's game with the Rays.

"It's a matter of respect and lack thereof," Daniels said. "We expect our guys to act professionally, to show respect for their teammates and the people in the clubhouse. We have minimum standards.

"This is an opportunity to send a message to the organization, especially [to] our young players. There is a right way and a wrong way to win championships. We expect a lot from our organization. This is the right message to send."

The Rangers signed Ponson in Spring Training with the knowledge that he had a past history of off-the-field problems, including two DUI arrests in 2004-05. Ponson, when he joined the Rangers, acknowledged his past problems but insisted he had learned from them and that they were behind him.

Club president Nolan Ryan was aware of the situation and expressed his support for the decision made by Daniels and Washington.

"When we signed him, everyone was familiar with his previous problems," Ryan said. We pretty well outlined what was expected. It's unfortunate, but it's important you're consistent. It tells the organization you're going to be consistent and not pick and choose depending on who it is.

"We are an extension of society. These things happen, unfortunately, and you have to deal with them and you do what you do to the best interest of the organization and the ballclub and you move on. I was in hopes that things were going to change for him and this was going to be an opportunity to resurrect his career."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.