Notebook: Benson proving his worth
BRADENTON, Fla. – Kris Benson, who could be signing a four-year contract soon, is proving to be a sound investment.
Benson pitched three scoreless innings Tuesday in his second spring training start as the Pirates defeated the Boston Red Sox, 7-3, in Fort Myers.
Benson held the Red Sox to two hits while running his scoreless inning streak to five this spring. He struck out three and walked none.
Benson’s good luck could continue today. He is hoping to sign a four-year contract that will run through the 2004 season. General manager Cam Bonifay said earlier in the week that an announcement could come today.
If Benson has been sidetracked by contract negotiations, it hasn’t been evident in his pitching.
Benson said he has been motivated by the thought of starting the regular season on a positive note. He is expected to start the season opener April 3 in Cincinnati.
‘I do think it’s important to be successful down here,’ Benson said. ‘I think it’s good to get into a groove of getting people out. I really think it carries over into the season. You can really set the tone for yourself in these games.’
Terry Mulholland also pitched three innings, giving up one run on four hits. Scott Sauerbeck, who signed a three-year contract Wednesday, followed with two scoreless innings.
The Red Sox scored two runs against Josias Manzanillo in the ninth.
Third baseman Aramis Ramirez led the Pirates with two hits and two runs batted in. For the spring, Ramirez is 7 of 11 with five runs batted in.
‘He’s swinging the bat like he belongs here,’ Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. ‘He’s swinging with a lot of confidence. It looks like he’s here to win the job.’
Reggie Jefferson drove in two runs. Jefferson, Ramirez and Kevin Young had run-scoring singles in a three-run fifth inning.
Pitchers Francisco Cordova and Jason Schmidt threw on the side yesterday morning.
Cordova threw 34 pitches in his five-minute session. It was his first time on the mound since the Pirates shut him down for a few days because of right elbow irritation.
‘He threw free and easy,’ pitching coach Spin Williams said. ‘He threw a few breaking balls and popped a few of his pitches.’
Cordova will play catch today, then throw on the side again Thursday for 8-10 minutes. After that session, the Pirates will determine whether Cordova is ready to pitch in his first spring game.
Schmidt appears to be closer to making his first spring appearance after throwing for four minutes yesterday.
Williams said Schmidt could make his debut either Thursday or Friday.
‘It’s all so day-to-day,’ he said. ‘(Today), he might feel 10 times better or he might feel 10 times worse.’
Schmidt’s outing was limited to four minutes because he had trouble getting loose in the breezy, 60-degree conditions.
‘Up to this point, we’re very satisfied with Jason Schmidt and how he’s progressing,’ Williams said.
Bill Mazeroski, the newest member of the Hall of Fame, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch today when the Pirates play the Cincinnati Reds at McKechnie Field. Mazeroski, however, will not throw out the first pitch April 9 at PNC Park. The Pirates are planning a special day for Mazeroski later in the season. … The Pirates also will play the Reds in Sarasota tonight to complete the day-night doubleheader. Todd Ritchie and Bronson Arroyo are the scheduled starters for the Pirates.