May 24, 2002
By ALAN ROBINSONAP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Kris Benson, returning from reconstructive elbow surgery, was warned he would have good outings and bad outings during a recovery process than can last a year.
The Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander just wishes he was having more good ones than bad ones.
Two of Benson’s first three outings were among worst of his career, as he gave up nine runs in 3 2-3 innings in his May 13 return against Arizona and seven runs in 3 1-3 innings Thursday against the Cubs.
However, Benson would be worrying a lot more if he hadn’t shut down Houston on May 18, yielding only one run in seven innings in just the kind of start the Pirates expected from their projected top starter.
“It takes time to get back when you haven’t pitched in 18 months … you’re not going to be 100 percent every time,” Benson said Friday. “But I’m pretty positive about my arm and elbow. The elbow is good, but it’s still going to take time to get a feel for pitching again.
“The good thing is I’m probably going to get 20 starts, and that’s a positive.”
It isn’t just a case of finding his rhythm and perfecting his mechanics – which, for a pitcher, are similar to a golfer finding his swing again after a long injury layoff. Until this month, Benson hadn’t pitched since the final day of the 2000 season.
“I’m also learning the hitters all over again,” he said. “Not just the new hitters, but a lot of the hitters that I faced before have made big adjustments. That’s why it should be a lot better when I face everybody the second time around.”
For Benson, that will come when he faces the Cubs for a second straight time Tuesday night, this time opposing them at PNC Park rather than Wrigley Field.
“We’ve got to be patient with him, but we knew that’s the way it would be,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “There are going to be days he feels great and he can go out and dominate, and days he has no feel and no touch.
“In Houston, he found a groove, but in Chicago he didn’t have a feel or a command for his pitches and couldn’t find his arm slot. The important thing is that he’s out there battling, and that will make him better.”
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