Left-hander gets minor-league contract

Kansas City Royals: The Royals signed left-hander Greg Swindell to a minor-league contract Sunday and invited him to spring training.

Swindell has a 113-122 career record with a 3.86 ERA. He did not pitch in the majors last season. In 2002, he went 0-2 with a 6.27
ERA in 34 relief appearances with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

If Swindell makes the team, he would earn the major league
minimum $300,000.

If Jeremy Affeldt returns to the rotation, the Royals would have
a spot for a left-handed reliever.

Affeldt was Kansas City's primary left-handed reliever last
season after a recurring finger blister knocked him out of the
rotation. Affeldt had part of a finger nail permanently removed in
December, and the Royals believe it has alleviated the blister

Jamie Cerda, acquired in a trade last month with the New York
Mets, is the only left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster. Kansas
City also invited left-handed relievers Mike Venafro, Les Walrond
and Dennys Reyes to camp.

Baltimore Orioles: Summoned by Lee Mazzilli for a meeting in the manager's office, Sidney Ponson approached the door with more than a small measure of trepidation.

"I thought I did something wrong," Ponson said.

Actually, because the right-hander did so many things right last
year, Ponson was told by Baltimore's new manager that he would be
the Orioles' starting pitcher on opening day April 4 against the
Boston Red Sox.

It will be the first such honor for Ponson, now the ace of the
staff after opening the 2003 season as the No. 4 pitcher in the
Orioles' rotation.

"I can tell you right now, Sidney will be our opening day
pitcher -- barring anything that arises," Mazzilli said Sunday.
"We signed him for a reason."

Ponson never had a winning season in the major leagues until
last year, when he went 14-6 with the Orioles before being traded
to the San Francisco Giants minutes before the July 31 non-waiver
trade deadline.

After receiving little run support in going 3-6 with San
Francisco, Ponson became a free agent and signed a $22.5 million,
three-year contract with Baltimore last month.

"He made his mind up that I'll be his ace, and he let me know
that the first day of spring training," Ponson said. "You know
you have to prepare for that day. You don't have to shuffle things
around; now I can put my schedule together and work off that."