Orioles decline Benson's option

The Baltimore Sun

Kris Benson's short tenure with the Orioles officially ended yesterday, when the team declined his $7.5 million option for the 2008 season after the starter missed 2007 because of shoulder surgery.

Benson, a 32-year-old right-hander who had surgery in March to repair a partially torn right rotator cuff, will get a $500,000 buyout and be eligible for free agency.

In 2006, his only active season with the Orioles, Benson went 11-12 with a 4.82 ERA while making 30 starts.

"It makes most sense for both parties for him to go out and pursue free agency and see what's out there," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "It's the best course."

The Orioles will be in the market this offseason for a veteran starter to pitch at the back end of the rotation. Benson, who has a career record of 68-73 with a 4.34 ERA in seven big league seasons, fits that mold. However, there were too many questions about Benson's ability to bounce back from the surgery for the Orioles to commit to the $7.5 million.

The events that led Benson to have the season-ending surgery also left some bitterness for the Orioles, who originally believed he could have pitched with the injury, or at least done a better job managing it.

They were annoyed that Benson waited until January to inform club officials of the shoulder pain, and they also believed that his failure to stick to his offseason exercise program contributed to his problems.

Benson could not be reached for comment yesterday.

When his shoulder was examined in late January, team doctors told him surgery wasn't necessary.

Benson got two other opinions but ultimately reported to spring training and consented to an aggressive rehabilitation program.

However, three weeks into the scheduled four-week program designed to strengthen the muscles around his shoulder, the pain was getting worse and Benson was given permission by the Orioles to have season-ending surgery.

The Orioles acquired Benson, who was the first overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1996 draft, from the New York Mets in a January 2006 trade for starting pitcher John Maine and reliever Jorge Julio.

Julio didn't make it through one season in New York before he was traded. However, Maine has developed into one of the Mets' top starting pitchers. The right-hander, 26, went 15-10 this past season with a 3.91 ERA after going 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 15 starts for the Mets in 2006.


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