Benson Wouldn't Mind Trade to Mets

PITTSBURGH - If Kris Benson were a compass right about now, he'd be spinning out of control. Some say he's heading to Anaheim; others to Arlington. Then there is the rampant speculation about trips to Philadelphia, Minnesota, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Even his own teammates are wondering about his comings and goings.

When Benson was standing in the midst of a throng of reporters Tuesday prior to the Pirates game with Montreal, teammate Josh Fogg perked up with, "Benny, did you finally get traded?" All the Pirates starter could do was shake his head.

"Whenever people ask me where I'll end up, I just tend to say ‘I don't know' because I've heard all the teams you're mentioning," Benson said. "Right now it's just a wait and see. I'll just keep pitching for the Pirates and, if it happens, I'll move on."

Benson is three years removed from Tommy John surgery and missed the final two months of last season after having shoulder surgery. He is 7-7 with a 4.26 ERA through 18 starts this season and 42-48 with a 4.27 ERA and four complete games in his career, but has had six straight quality starts and is beginning to exhibit the dominance that made him the first overall pick in the 1996 draft.

Because of this, he is the most prized pitcher currently on the market and some say the team that has the most to offer for the services of Pittsburgh's 29-year-old right-hander is the New York Mets. Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield is hungry for infielder Ty Wiggington and to get rid of Benson, in the final year of a four-year, $14 million contract that will pay him $6 million this season, to get him would be a bargain.

New York is in a four-way dogfight with Atlanta, Philadelphia and Florida for the National League East pennant and it would give Benson a chance to pitch in a postseason chase for the first time in his career.

It would also be a trade Benson would welcome. "It's a bunch of what-ifs and if it happens it happens," Benson said. "But I wouldn't be disappointed being there."

Benson will get one last chance to impress the Mets – and all of his other suitors – when he takes the mound Wednesday in Atlanta. He is 2-1 with a 1.50 career ERA against the Braves, but he has not faced them since his first – and only – career shutout in a 2-0 win on June 15, 2000.

"I've always enjoyed pitching down there in Atlanta and it's been a long time since I pitched down there," Benson said. "I'm looking forward to going in front of a big crowd, I'm leaving 50 or 60 tickets, so it should be a lot of fun."

Benson grew up in Marietta, Ga. And a Braves fan all his life, modeled his pitching style on that of longtime Atlanta starter Tom Glavine. Many also believe there is a physical appearance between the two and that Benson is just a right-handed version of the 38-year-old two-time Cy Young Award winner.

There are also other reasons why Benson wouldn't mind if the Mets, Glavine's current team, win the sweepstakes for his services. "Tom and I have the same agent and I know he wants me over there," Benson said. "I've known him for a long time when he was with the Braves and played with his brother in Cape Cod."

There are other, more professional, reasons as well. "It would be nice to talk to a veteran pitcher like that," Benson said. "And be a part of that team."

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