Losing Benson doesn't come as shock to O's

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Odds were long for '07 return

Ponson to face old team today

March 16, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun Reporter

FORT MYERS, FLA. -- While the agent for Kris Benson worked yesterday to complete plans for his client's season-ending surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the Orioles moved on, not expecting to have the services of the pitcher in the first place.

"We were a little bit optimistic about it just because the feeling was that he didn't do an awful lot at the end of the season until January," said Orioles vice president Jim Duquette. "But still, we had medical opinions that made you wonder what you were up against. We certainly weren't counting on it."

Gregg Clifton, Benson's agent, said yesterday that the pitcher, who had been trying to rehabilitate the injury with an aggressive strengthening program, will have surgery Tuesday in New York. It will be performed by Mets team physician David Altchek, who did rotator cuff surgery on St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder last September.

Recovery from rotator cuff surgery usually takes 10 to 12 months, but Clifton is hoping Benson will be back on the mound in November. The club will have until after the World Series to decide whether to exercise a $7.5 million option in Benson's contract for 2008 or pay a $500,000 buyout.

"We'll have to wait and see how the surgery goes and how the rehab goes and make that decision at the end of the season," Duquette said. "I think he was more relieved that there was a sense of closure to it. ... It was a medical decision. The first 2 1/2 weeks that he was rehabbing, he seemed to be making progress. He had a setback and it seemed like after that it got worse and worse."

Ponson, O's grievance go on

Minnesota Twins right-hander Sidney Ponson will face his old team today 18 months after the Orioles placed him on waivers, citing his three arrests since December 2004.

The Major League Baseball Players Association immediately filed a grievance against the Orioles, trying to force them to pay the $11.2 million remaining on the Aruban's three-year guaranteed contract. However, a date for a hearing is still pending.

Part of the holdup is that the Orioles have not received specific discovery documents that they had requested from the union, according to Frank Coonelly, MLB's general counsel, labor. But, Coonelly added, given other baseball issues facing the two sides, including a new collective bargaining agreement, the delay in handling this matter is neither unusual nor unanticipated.

"There is no timetable for it," Coonelly said. "I'd say that if the grievance hearing happens this year, it wouldn't be an unusually long time for [the case] to have sat."

Still, the pitcher's camp is optimistic. "We are hopeful to have this matter in the arbiter's hands prior to the All-Star break," said Barry Praver, Ponson's agent.

Ponson gave up four earned runs and seven hits in two innings in his only outing this spring.

Injury update

Jay Gibbons missed his third straight game yesterday with an abdominal strain but told manager Sam Perlozzo that he'd like to play in the next three games. The news wasn't as good for Kevin Millar, who remains day-to-day with a right forearm strain.

Reliever Sendy Rleal had a magnetic resonance imaging test done on his right elbow yesterday.

One more hitter?

Duquette said the club wants another right-handed bat, but there isn't anything "compelling" available. ... Perlozzo said Jeremy Guthrie and Rob Bell are the favorites for the long-relief spot, but he hasn't ruled out carrying 13 pitchers.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Roch Kubatko and Dan Connolly contributed to this article.

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