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Benson not sour on the Big Apple


NEW YORK -- Orioles starter Kris Benson did not leave the New York Mets on his own terms last winter, but he said he carries no hard feelings into his first start against his former team.

Benson will oppose Mets ace Pedro Martinez today.

"It's just going to be a regular game against a good team," he said.

Benson had a solid 2005 season for the Mets, going 10-8 with a 4.13 ERA. But the Mets traded him in the offseason amid speculation that they were tired of his wife Anna's antics.

The Orioles acquired him for disappointing reliever Jorge Julio and starter John Maine. The Mets have traded Julio, and the Orioles are pleased with Benson's 7-5 record and 4.63 ERA.

Benson said he wouldn't be trying to show his former bosses that they made a mistake in dealing him.

"There's nothing that I need to prove," Benson said. "If anything, I'll just try to go out there and pitch well against a pretty good team. They've got a good lineup, and I just look at it in that sense. I've been in the league too long to have to prove anything."

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said he has no fear that Benson will be preoccupied with his return.

"I think Kris will go about his business as usual," he said. "I think the other part will come from the fans or the media or whatever."

The New York tabloids jumped on news that Benson and his wife were separating during spring training. But he downplayed that yesterday, saying every player should have the chance to play in New York at some point.

"I invested a lot of time and effort, and it was a lot of fun for the short term that it was," he said. "And I have nothing but good things to say about the city and the fans and the stadium."

Clark in, Halama out

When you've played professionally for 15 years and had only three big league stints, the next call-up can never be taken for granted.

So utility man Howie Clark, 32, was thrilled when the Orioles purchased his contract from Triple-A Ottawa yesterday.

"When I got the call, I was super excited," he said. "This is the reason we're all playing, and anyone who's ever played in big leagues, this is where you want to get back to."

Clark had a key sacrifice bunt in the Orioles' four-run rally in the seventh inning in last night's win over the Mets.

Clark has hit .277 in 238 major league at-bats for the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. He was hitting .276 with two homers and 12 RBIs for Ottawa. He replaces reliever John Halama on the club's roster. Halama was designated for assignment, but would have to clear waivers before being sent to the minors.

Teammates seemed thrilled when they saw Clark in the clubhouse. "Howie, Howie, Howie," third baseman Melvin Mora said before giving Clark a warm hug.

Halama had a 6.14 ERA in 29 1/3 innings this year. His fellow left-handed long man, Bruce Chen, has struggled as well. And Perlozzo said the club couldn't carry both pitchers in lieu of an extra bat off the bench.

"You know we love John," Perlozzo said. "He's a quality man, a quality professional. It's just the way we're sitting right now, we have two long guys."

J. Lopez sits, then fills in

Regular designated hitter and backup catcher Javy Lopez was not in the lineup last night and may not get many at-bats this weekend as Orioles pitchers hit in interleague play.

"That's just the way it is," Perlozzo said of interleague games. "A good bit of American League clubs end up with one of their better hitters not playing."

Perlozzo said the club could play regular catcher Ramon Hernandez at first base and catch Lopez. But he laughed when asked if he would seriously consider that configuration.

Lopez entered last night's game unexpectedly when Hernandez was ejected in the third inning for arguing a called third strike.

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