Bochy comfortable with Benitez closing
Veteran makes third scoreless Cactus League appearance
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Time will tell whether the Giants are showcasing Armando Benitez for a trade or renewing their commitment to him. Either way, the embattled right-hander shall remain the team's closer for the foreseeable future.Manager Bruce Bochy said as much after the Giants' 11-7 exhibition victory Friday over the Colorado Rockies. Brian Wilson, the Giants' other leading candidate to preserve ninth-inning leads, groomed himself for a likely setup role by pitching a perfect eighth inning. Then came Benitez, who allowed a harmless single in a shutout ninth. "That's the plan right now," Bochy said, confirming that the Giants are leaning toward Benitez as their season-opening closer. "We worked today how it could go. We're getting ready for the year now." Having made three scoreless one-inning appearances in Cactus League action, a jovial Benitez echoed Bochy's thoughts about preparedness. "I'm ready to go," Benitez said. Asked if he meant physically as well as mentally, Benitez replied, "Every way I have to be. I'm ready to rumble." Giants fans have been ready to revolt after watching Benitez blow 12 of 48 save opportunities in the previous two seasons. Benitez was rarely healthy during that span, undergoing hamstring surgery in 2005 before enduring elbow and knee ailments in 2006. Benitez, who has been pressed to defend himself on multiple occasions, again cited his injuries as a factor that fans sometimes ignore. "People don't understand about what happens with your knee and hamstring," he said. "You can think whatever you want, but it's been real tough. It's been real painful. Now it's different." The Giants can only hope that things really will be different for Benitez, who's in the final season of a three-year, $21 million contract that he earned after saving 47 games for Florida in 2004. "The Giants signed me because they know what I can do," Benitez said. "Not because I have a beautiful face; I don't have a beautiful face! They signed me because I can do the job. Nobody wants to be hurt; I had bad luck the first year and the second year, too. I tried to push myself and hurt myself. This is a new year and everything's coming through right now. I'm working to what I'm looking for ... the opportunity to end the game." Asked if he thought Benitez has closer's stuff, Bochy replied, "Yeah. I think he's been throwing well. He's on track now and he's done a good job every time out there." That included Friday's game, which was destined to provide a save situation for Benitez until Luis Figueroa's two-run triple in the bottom of the eighth inning gave San Francisco a four-run lead.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.