Ponson struggles in spring's first start

Ponson struggles in spring's first start

PHOENIX -- Sidney Ponson's mid-spring rush to make the Rangers rotation hit a speed bump on Sunday afternoon against the Athletics.

The right-hander, making his second appearance and first start this spring, gave up four runs in 2 1/3 innings in the Rangers' 9-7 loss at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

"It looked like he was rushing everything and couldn't keep the ball in the strike zone," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Ponson allowed all four runs in the first and only got out of the inning by throwing out Rob Bowen at second base while backing up on an overthrow. Ponson was at least able to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning without further damage. Ultimately, he faced 14 batters, allowing six hits and two walks.

"I know the numbers don't look good, but I got my work in," Ponson said. "I just didn't have anything. I couldn't throw strikes. It was a battle."

Ponson and Luis Mendoza are competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. With Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Jason Jennings and Kason Gabbard locked into the top four spots, it's likely that Ponson and Mendoza both will start the season at Triple-A Oklahoma because the Rangers won't need a fifth starter until April 12.

But Washington said two things after the game. He said the Rangers want to know who their fifth starter will be by the time they leave Arizona and said Ponson could be a candidate for the bullpen if he doesn't make the rotation.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.