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    BALTIMORE - Sidney Ponson was released Thursday by the Baltimore Orioles, who contend the pitcher's conduct and problems with alcohol the past nine months give them grounds to void his contract.

    Ponson, on the 15-day disabled list with thumb and calf injuries, has one season left on a three-year deal that would pay him $10 million in 2006.

    "The Orioles did what we felt was justified and right, and indeed what we were compelled to do," said H. Russell Smouse, the team's general counsel. "There was really no alternative after a deliberate consideration of all the facts."

    The players' union had no immediate comment Thursday. Ponson's agent, Barry Praver, also did not return a call. Praver and Ponson have not talked to the media since the 28-year-old pitcher's arrest last week.

    Ponson was arrested Aug. 25 and accused of driving under the influence of alcohol. He also was charged in January with driving under the influence in Florida, a case that has not been resolved.

    That arrest came less than a month after he spent 11 days in an Aruban jail after he hit a judge during a Christmas Day fight at a beach in his home country. Ponson apologized for the fight and reached a settlement that involved community service and a charitable contribution.

    Last week's arrest convinced the Orioles they had sufficient grounds to terminate his contract. In a one-sentence release Thursday, the Orioles said they placed the pitcher on "unconditional release waivers," citing a violation of the standard player contract.

    Every player on the 40-man roster signs a standard contract that includes a morals clause, paragraph 3(a), that reads: "The Player agrees to perform his services hereunder diligently and faithfully, to keep himself in first-class physical condition and to obey the Club's training rules, and pledges himself to the American public and to the Club to conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship."

    The Orioles believe Ponson violated that rule.
    But You Already Knew That

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