Summoned by Lee Mazzilli for a meeting in the manager's office, Sidney Ponson approached the door with some trepidation.
"I thought I did something wrong," Ponson said yesterday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Actually, because the righthander 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 Night April 4 against the Red Sox in Camden Yards.
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.
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.Another Opening Day declaration was made when Astros manager Jimy Williams announced that Roy Oswalt would get the nod over free agent acquisitions Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
Yankee yammerings As usual, there was no shortage of news eminating from Yankee camp in Tampa, where new pinstriper Kenny Lofton said winning is the only thing that matters to him. Lofton, who signed a $6.2 million, two-year contract, is a center fielder by trade and will have to challenge incumbent Bernie Williams for the job. The other will see time at designated hitter. Manager Joe Torre might use a platoon . . . . . . New Yankees ace Kevin Brown (right ankle bruise) took part in all drills. He was hit by a ball Saturday . . . According to Newsday, pitcher Jose Contreras has hired an immigration attorney, the same one the Yankees use, in his attempt to get his wife and two daughters out of Cuba . . . Torre said it's likely Jason Giambi will hit between Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield.
Sanchez sidelined Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Freddy Sanchez might not be ready to start the season because of a right ankle injury. Sanchez, once the top prospect in the Red Sox organization before being a part of last season's trade for Jeff Suppan, expected to compete for the starting second base job this spring but could be out until May . . . Former Red Sox outfielder Otis Nixon was arrested and charged with fondling a woman at his home in Atlanta. Nixon was arrested Friday and charged with misdemeanor sexual battery, police said. Nixon, 45, was released on $1,000 bond . . . The Kansas City Royals signed lefthander Greg Swindell to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training . . . Andy Seminick, 83, a catcher on the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies team that won the NL pennant, died in Melbourne, Fla. Obituary, Page A15.