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Byline: Larry Stone
SEATTLE _ The Baltimore Orioles are beginning to rue the day they gave Sidney Ponson a three-year, $22.5.million contract in the offseason.
It's not just Ponson's 3-7 record and 6.47 earned-run average as the supposed staff ace. It's the fact he seems to be hopelessly out of shape. Last week, the front office brought in members of the medical and strength-and-conditioning staff to discuss Ponson, 27, who weighs 255 pounds.
The team's management is being circumspect, but Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, now an Orioles television analyst, ripped into Ponson to the Washington Post.
"It was really a slap in the face to the Orioles when he showed up in spring training in the kind of shape he did," said Palmer. "There are too many variables in this game that you can't control to let yourself be undone by a variable you can control."
Palmer even compared Ponson to Steve Bechler, the Orioles pitcher who died in February of 2003 because of heat stroke brought on by ephedra use.
"The tragic irony of Steve Bechler's death is that the one guy came in overweight," Palmer said. "The other guy came in overweight. One guy makes a minor-league salary; the other makes …