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Thursday, July 31, 2003
Updated: August 1, 2:35 PM ET
Fourteen-game winner joins NL West leader

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 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 Thursday for three pitchers.

Sidney Ponson
Starting pitcher
San Francisco Giants
21 148.0 14-6 43 100 3.77

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 has a big lead in the NL West despite one of the shakiest starting rotations in the league.

"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 AL in victories behind Toronto's Roy Halladay, who has 15. Ponson, a native of Aruba, had won four straight starts before losing to Minnesota Twins 5-1 Wednesday.

Ponson turned down a $15 million, three-year contract extension from the Orioles on July 19, and the sides had exchanged proposals since then without reaching an agreement. He is eligible for free agency this winter, and Ponson was excited to be headed to a contender.

"The negotiations had some influence on it,'' said Jim Beattie, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations. "When we looked at the options, we felt this was the best thing to do. We didn't talk to a lot of clubs. In the end, we felt this was the only trade that makes us a better club.''

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

"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.''

"It's one of the tougher ones I've had to do because I like Sidney a lot,'' said Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove, who told Ponson of the move. "I've got a job to do, and that's part of it. I've got a special feeling for Sidney, and I will in 20 years -- unless he blows up my house or something.''

The Orioles got two pitchers who might be in their rotation for years to come.

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, only returning to top form in his last three starts.

Moss wouldn't comment on the trade as he left the Giants' clubhouse Thursday after their loss to the Chicago Cubs.

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.

"We want him to take it slow,'' Beattie said. "Our most important goal is getting him healthy for next year.''

Hannaman will start with the Orioles' Class A affiliate in Frederick.

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

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.

"He is a horse, a No. 1 guy,'' Giants manager Felipe Alou said in Chicago. "He's got some real good stuff. He throws hard, good breaking ball, a good changeup. He's an imposing figure on the mound.''

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.

"That's exactly what we need right now: a guy that will not just keep us in a game, but gives us a chance to win every time out,'' Giants closer Tim Worrell said.

"If Sidney does for them what he did for us,'' Hargrove said, "he'll be golden.''