Benitez's rapid progress makes him possibility as closer, Johnson says

March 23, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Orioles manager Davey Johnson said he would like to use reliever Armando Benitez in a closer's role this season if he continues to progress in the regular season like he has this spring.

Baltimore acquired Randy Myers in the off-season to finish games, but Johnson said he likes to have two pitchers who can close. The situation with Benitez, 23, and Myers, 33, is akin to what Johnson did with the Cincinnati Reds with established closer Jeff Brantley and young fastball-throwing Hector Carrasco.

"I've always had a couple of guys who can close, or I was breaking in a young closer," Johnson said. "It's the same situation now. If Armando can set up and have some good innings, that will bolster his confidence and he'll get an opportunity to close. Armando needs to experience a bit of success [in the regular season], and that will help expand his role."

Benitez struggled closing games last year, and his confidence sank as a result of his rough (1-5, 5.66 ERA) rookie season. But he has been calm and collected this spring, striking out 12 in 7 2/3 innings and picking up three saves.

Myers has 243 career saves with a 3.17 ERA and he saved 38 games for the Chicago Cubs last year. Myers has allowed seven hits and two runs in four innings this spring. Johnson said he does not want to use Myers for more than one inning per outing, because he usually wears down when pitching both the eighth and ninth innings.

Benitez has pitched more than an inning once this spring, and the Atlanta Braves' Mike Mordecai drilled a three-run homer off him in that game, sending the Orioles to defeat.

Pub Date: 3/23/96

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