Notes: Benson's rehab hits a snag
Right-hander is hoping to avoid surgery and pitch this season
JUPITER, Fla. -- Kris Benson has reached the midpoint in his month-long rehabilitation program, but he hasn't reached any hard-and-fast conclusions. The Orioles right-hander has been trying to strengthen the muscles around his partially torn rotator cuff, but a recent setback may force him to scrap the project and instead undergo surgery.
One thing is clear: If Benson opts for surgery, his season would be over. The operation carries an eight-month recovery period, which explains why the veteran is eager to reach a timely decision. Benson said on Wednesday that he'd reevaluate the situation in the next week, but he also said that he wouldn't extend his strengthening program.
"Either way, we're going to know what it's going to feel like in three or four weeks, so it's not like there's going to be much of a difference between four and five weeks," Benson said. "By the end of that period, we'll have a really good idea of what direction we're going in, and I think everybody's opinion is not to let it continue to stretch out any longer.
"That was the whole point of rehabbing it -- the fact that I had a little window in there that I could play with, as far as getting back to 100 percent, so I could do some work during the winter time and take a little rest before I get back down to spring. We've still got another week until I make a pretty good guess on what's going to happen."
Benson has pitched with the tear for much of the past few seasons, but he said he's been able to manage the pain and pitch productively. This year, the soreness came when he started his offseason throwing schedule. Benson wound up getting three medical opinions -- one from a team physician and two from outside the organization.
The consensus opinion was for him to attempt to rehab the shoulder and hold off on surgery as a last resort. And when that process started, agent Gregg Clifton said he wasn't particularly optimistic that it would work. But it did work for a few weeks, restoring Benson's range of motion and alleviating some of the pain in the front of his shoulder.
The tipping point came when Benson took Sunday off and was unable to work out on Monday or Tuesday.
"It was kind of reminiscent of the time that I did it when I was throwing," Benson said. "I didn't really do anything different. It just kind of popped up out of nowhere. It's just tough to tell what's going on with it. Basically, we've still got another week or two to work on it and get the inflammation back down again.
"[We'll] see if it comes back again or if this is just like another little hump that I need to go over. We've been working pretty hard with it, upping the weights and everything, so it could just be a little ticked off right now."
Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said that Benson's soreness is just part of the process. Perlozzo said he hasn't spoken to Benson, but that his conversations with the training staff have led him to believe that anything is possible. In fact, Perlozzo said he believed that Benson was almost strong enough to take the next step.
"I havent heard anything about a setback," Perlozzo said. "All I heard was that he was sore. I guess he's been working extremely hard on his exercises. According to [trainer] Richie [Bancells], it was a normal course of events. He thought that he was getting close, strength-wise, to where they might want to go to an every-other-day program with him."
Holding Penn: Hayden Penn made his first Spring Training appearance on Wednesday, when he threw a scoreless inning in relief of lefty Erik Bedard. Penn gave up a one-out triple to the Marlins' Miguel Cabrera and ended up loading the bases, but he emerged unscathed. More importantly, he proved that his left ankle is healthy enough to take the mound.
"I actually felt pretty good. I made some good pitches," said Penn, who sprained his ankle last week. "I'm glad I waited, because I didn't want to have it bothering me the whole time. Now, it's pretty much 100 percent. I'm not going to have anything holding me back."
Penn said he felt his ankle "give" way on one pitch, but for the most part, he didn't feel anything out of the ordinary. He also said that he threw one experimental slider, a breaking ball that spun off into the dirt. The right-hander is expected to pitch every fifth day and work himself into shape to start at Triple-A Norfolk or relieve in the big leagues.
"I don't know how far behind I am," Penn said. "I know everybody's thrown and I'm the last guy to throw, but I think I'll get my opportunities. I've just got to keep throwing."
Foul balls: Kevin Millar fouled a ball off the instep of his left foot on Wednesday, and the veteran was forced to leave the game early. Millar, who had been playing left field, said he didn't expect to miss too much playing time.
"It's just sore," he said. "It will be bruised."
Quotable: "Just like any rehab, you have good days and bad days. Especially the last couple days, I've been a little sore. We'll see what it feels like today." -- Benson on the pain in his shoulder
Coming up: The Orioles will travel to Port St. Lucie, Fla., for a game against the Mets on Thursday at 1:10 p.m. ET. Daniel Cabrera will be matched up against Mets right-hander Orlando Hernandez.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.