Sidney Ponson cruised through the Twins for nine innings on Wednesday night to gain a 10-1 victory in the Metrodome. This improved his record to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.95 in six starts for the Texas Rangers.
Now that the guy we used to call ''L Sid'' here in Minnesota has dazzled the Twins, there could be American League general managers trying to track down Scott Aldred, Sean Bergman, Scott Klingenbeck and Pat Mahomes as possibilities to return to the Metrodome to stifle the low-wattage 2008 version of their former team.
Ponson was the second option for Twins' reclamation projects in the spring of 2007. They opened the season with both -- Ramon Ortiz and Ponson -- in the rotation.
The propaganda about Ponson's sinker coming from the Twins' brain trust in spring training was such that LaVelle Neal admitted going on an obscure radio show and predicting ''13, 14 victories'' for the husky righthander (Sidney, not LaVelle).
The Star Tribune's senior hardball writer was only generous by 11 or 12.
Ortiz had a few good starts. Ponson had a few good innings and was gone by mid-May.
Ponson was 2-5 with a 6.93 ERA in seven starts for the Twins. He pitched 37 2/3 innings and allowed 74 baserunners (54 hits, 17 walks, three hit batsmen).
He was sent packing with the full confidence of every Twins ticket-buyer who had been witness to his pitching that he would never be seen on the Dome mound again.
Lo and behold, there he was Wednesday, throwing the ball low in the zone to such effect as to make the Twins look more foolish than on most nights with this slap-happy lineup.
The game was scoreless for five innings, although Ponson was always in fuller command of the situation than Nick Blackburn.
The Twins rookie survived threats in the fourth and fifth innings, and came unraveled in a seven-run sixth. He was charged with one earned run, and yet it was the worst of his 10 big-league starts.
There wasn't as much life on his pitches as in his previous starts, and only despair in his body language when a couple of bad things happened in that sixth.
The inning opened with Michael Young's home run, and the seventh run scored on Ian Kinsler's homer. In between, second baseman Alexi Casilla made an error and plate umpire Jeff Nelson missed what should have been strike three to Gerald Laird.
A base hit followed, all Hades broke loose, and Blackburn was gone after 10 hits in six innings. We've been giving the rookie much praise, but there is a disturbing statistic:
Opponents are batting .311 against Blackburn.
His struggle served to make the Twins even more impatient against the Ponson sinker, which actually was visible Wednesday, as opposed to the myth of a sinker during his brief time in Minnesota.
This was Ponson's first complete game since he was with the Orioles and beat Toronto in April 2005. The Texas outfielders could have rested in lounge chairs, since 24 of the Twins' 27 outs came on ground balls (18), strikeouts (5) or a caught stealing (1).
Ponson's locker was located in the back of the visitors' clubhouse. That's also where the table for the postgame spread was positioned. The media arrived shortly after Sidney had gotten himself a plate.
"You're going to have to wait until I get done eating,'' Ponson said to the reporters.
A teammate standing nearby laughed and said: "Stay back. This is what Sid's been waiting for all night.''
Once Ponson was fortified, the reporters descended. The obvious Minnesota angle was this: What was the difference tonight and the ineffective seven-start stay with the Twins?
If he wanted to be nasty, Ponson could have said: "Tonight I had a chance to pitch against this punchless Twins lineup rather than for last year's punchless Twins lineup.''
Instead, Ponson said: "My sinker was going down rather than sideways. My last two starts, I gave up a lot of hits because it was going sideways.
"Same thing last year. My sinker was going sideways. Tonight, it was going down, my teammates made some good plays behind me, and that was it.''
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org