FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The newest member of the Orioles' starting rotation, Kris Benson, got a rude indoctrination to his teammates on Thursday.
As part of the club's first workout, Benson had to step into the batter's box to face Daniel Cabrera, the 6-foot-7 right-hander who throws in the mid- to high-90s. Then, Cabrera exited, and in came the soft-tossing Bruce Chen.
"Chen came in there and I thought he threw a changeup," recalled Benson, who actually had just watched Chen's fastball go by. "I was like, 'I didn't see you give me a changeup sign.' And he [said], 'That wasn't a changeup.' I was [thinking], this isn't how I should be starting off with my starting pitchers."
The good-natured Chen laughed about the incident and spent time after the workout comparing notes with Benson on throwing a curveball.
Just two days into spring training, Benson has already assimilated himself into the Orioles' rotation, a tight-knit group that Benson expects to surprise some teams.
"I think that the rotation is going to be spectacular," said Benson, who was acquired in an offseason trade from the New York Mets for Jorge Julio and John Maine. "I don't think people are giving us much credit, just because what happened at the end of the season. When [Erik] Bedard is healthy, he was pitching lights out. Cabrera is still young, but he's going to learn a lot from Leo [Mazzone]. [Rodrigo Lopez] has been having some good seasons and Chen is coming off a career season. I'll mix right in."
Benson's teammates feel he will do more than that. Lopez called it an honor to be on the same staff as him. Benson, who for the first time in his career is the veteran of a staff, welcomed the leadership role.
"I'll pick my spots," he said. "It was tough when you had Pedro [Martinez], [Tom] Glavine, [Steve] Trachsel and all those guys ahead of you. You don't go up to them and start giving those guys tips and stuff. It's a lot easier to do that with the younger guys. It's something I definitely enjoy doing, sharing all kinds of different ideas."
Newhan starts early
Outfielder David Newhan became the first non-pitcher or catcher to arrive at spring training yesterday, four days before the rest of the team is scheduled to report.
Newhan, who lives in California, said he customarily likes to arrive early to get settled, but he didn't deny this spring carries extra significance after his struggles last year.
"It's definitely left a bad taste in my mouth," said Newhan of his 2005 season, when he hit .202 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 218 at-bats and was sent to Triple-A Ottawa twice. "But it pushed me to work harder and to be a better player. Failure is not always a bad thing."
Newhan is hoping to find a spot in the Orioles' unsettled outfield. Jay Gibbons will start in right, but left and center field are up for grabs.
Around the horn
Right-handed reliever Aaron Rakers, who is hoping to earn a spot in the bullpen, was dismissed from yesterday's workout to get a magnetic resonance imaging test done on his right shoulder, said trainer Richie Bancells. ... Javy Lopez's work at first base in the first two days of camp has gotten positive reviews. "I talked to [infield coach] Dave Cash and he said that he didn't want to get too excited too soon," manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He's surprising him. He's not surprising me as much."