`Retiree' Benes now pitches in for Cards

Williams' woes could give revived vet a Game 3 start

D'backs-Cardinals notebook

October 02, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Andy Benes nearly retired earlier this year, but he came back at midseason and has re-emerged as a very important member of the pitching staff.

Now, he's suddenly in a position to play an even more important part in the postseason.

Right-hander Woody Williams was supposed to be the No. 3 starter in the Cardinals' playoff rotation, but he had to shut down a workout on Monday with continued soreness in his back. The setback forced the team to remove him from the postseason roster and add Garrett Stephenson as a long reliever.

Benes, who has battled some back soreness of his own, will take over Williams' place in the starting rotation if he is pain-free on Saturday.

"I'm one of the fill-in guys," Benes said. "I'm looking at it like that. I'm filling in for one of our top three starters and I'll do what I can do. I'm excited."

The veteran right-hander has done quite a lot since returning from the 60-day disabled list at midseason. He went home with a lingering knee problem after a rough start and didn't plan on coming back, but eventually accepted a minor-league assignment.

No one expected him to accomplish much, but he pitched well enough to rate a call-up and fashioned a 5-4 record and an impressive 2.78 ERA in 18 appearances (17 starts).

"I spent five weeks at home pitching to my 6-year-old," Benes said yesterday. "There was a pretty good chance I wouldn't be back, but the good Lord had a different plan for me."

Benes appeared confident he would be physically sound by the time the series moves to Busch Stadium, but manager Tony La Russa said that rookie Jason Simontacchi will start if there is any doubt.

"Backs, they're notorious," La Russa said. "I think he [Benes] is going to get great treatment, do everything he can. If he can't go, Jason will get the ball."

Late night

Last night's late start made it difficult for fans on the East Coast to stay up and watch, and it couldn't have been particularly popular with Cardinals fans, since it was scheduled to start at 10:06 Central time.

"I think it's tough when the game starts at 10 o'clock," Benes said. "That's a tough time slot from 10 to 1, but they have to set the schedule for television."

Benes, however, had no complaint about the fact that the Yankees got the prime-time slot.

"I guess if we'd won four World Series in six years, we'd be in that spot," he said.

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