Benson hoping to begin rehab with team today


Club optimistic about his chances, but starter's agent more cautious

February 21, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A week after indicating he would undergo surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, Orioles pitcher Kris Benson was attempting to grab a flight out of Atlanta last night so he could be in camp today to begin a rehabilitation program.

The Orioles and Benson's agent, Gregg Clifton, confirmed yesterday that Benson had decided to postpone surgery and instead will undergo a course of treatment that could last more than a month. It's the latest spin in a story that has taken numerous turns and been filled with contradictions.

Benson sought a third opinion from Dr. James Andrews, who examined him Monday afternoon in Birmingham, Ala., and advised that he participate in an aggressive rehab under the Orioles' supervision. This news came after Dr. David Altchek, the New York Mets' medical director, recommended surgery, and after Orioles orthopedic specialist Dr. Andrew Cosgarea first told Benson that surgery wasn't necessary.

"There is a tear. It's an undisputed fact," Clifton said.

"There are a lot of varying opinions when it comes to the shoulder. Obviously, it's a lot different than the elbow. A perfect example would be the three doctors Kris has seen during the last few weeks, all confirming the exact same thing, that there's a tear, but all three of them prescribing completely different scenarios. Obviously, with those three choices, Kris would much rather avoid the surgery and feels as though it's worth the shot, as do the Orioles people, to see if he might be able to rehab it."

The Orioles sounded more optimistic of Benson's chances yesterday, while Clifton referred to the pitcher as searching for "the needle in the haystack."

"There are a number of pitchers that have this type of injury and successfully rehab from it," vice president Jim Duquette said. "Our thinking all along was that this needed to be the case. He has the right under the basic agreement to seek a second opinion and then we worked through a third opinion. Our whole feeling from the very beginning was that is the way we thought it should go."

The Los Angeles Angels' Bartolo Colon is pitching with a similar tear in his rotator cuff, but the St. Louis Cardinals' Mark Mulder, another Clifton client, tried to rehab his shoulder last year and eventually had surgery.

"Dr. Andrews gave Kris a small amount of hope that surgery still can be avoided by doing, as he put it, an aggressive rehab for the next few weeks, and we'll assess where we're at," Clifton said. "If no progress has been made then, he'll probably recommend surgery at that point. But right now, he felt as though he would just like to see Kris take one more shot at a little more rehab."

Surgery for the tear, which existed before the Orioles acquired Benson in January 2006, most likely would keep him from pitching in 2007.

Perlozzo pumps up team

The first full-squad workout always begins with a speech from the manager, who gathers the players in the clubhouse before they take the field. Sam Perlozzo had done this once before, but yesterday's talk took on a slightly different tone.

"He seemed really excited. Last year, he was just getting his feet wet," Jay Gibbons said.

"It pumped us up a little bit. He expects to win. None of this, `We want to compete.' We want to win. He knows we have a better team, too. That's obvious."

Working out in left

As long as he brought more than one glove, Gibbons figured it was time to take fly balls in left field and grounders at first base.

Gibbons is adjusting to the new angles in left after playing so many games in right.

"I was just trying to track the ball. It's a little different in right," he said. "It's been a while, but it was fun."

Around the horn

The Orioles didn't have any updates on bench coach Tom Trebelhorn, who left the team this week and returned to his Arizona home because of an illness in his family. ... Brandon Fahey and Val Majewski were the last two players on the 40-man roster to sign contracts for the 2007 season.

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