Baltimore fans were tantalized with the righthander's promise, but he didn't deliver a dominant season until 2003. Then, when he returned from San Francisco, he began experiencing right elbow pain, which grew increasingly worse.
Last season, he had outings for the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees in which his fastball barely hit 91 mph. He no longer could throw his curveball or changeup, so he was reduced to throwing sinkers and sliders -- a four-pitch pitcher reduced to two.
"It was my arm," Ponson said. "I'm not going to lie about it. I'm hard-headed and stuff like that. I didn't want to do surgery ... and finally, I surrendered."
Ponson had surgery to remove bone chips in October. Already this spring, he's felt the difference.
"I feel great now," he said. "I feel like I'm 19 again. ... I won't be throwing 98 [mph] again, but if I can bring it back to 93-94, I'll be happy."
Ponson will make $1 million from the Twins if he makes the major league roster, and he can earn up to $2 million more in incentives.
"At 30 years old, it's not out of the question we can resurrect this guy," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. "We used to really like him. We had good reports on him for years."
So far, Ponson said he loves his new environment around the Twins. Halabi said he thinks he'll have a good year.
"He's the same person -- the same happy guy," Halabi said. "Now, he's a little more mature. He's got a fiancee who loves him, and I think that's going to make a lot of difference.
"The most important thing is Sidney's happy. Sidney's healthy. I guess he's found peace."