Benitez comes back to Bay Area pitching for Florida Print
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Friday, 27 July 2007 15:06
MLB Headline News

 SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -There's certainly one way Armando Benitez could guarantee himself cheers from fans in San Francisco: give up a home run to Barry Bonds.
Benitez returned to the Bay Area with the Florida Marlins on Friday, nearly two months after the Giants traded their embattled closer. And the pitcher said he was prepared to get booed by the fans.
Walking to the visiting clubhouse wasn't that strange for Benitez.
``So far so good right now,'' he said during a 10-minute interview with The Associated Press at his locker tucked away in the corner. ``It's the same for me. I've been playing a long time. How long have I been playing, 13 years? Just a different way to another clubhouse.''
The 34-year-old Benitez gave up a three-run walkoff homer to Eric Byrnes in a 7-4 loss at Arizona on Thursday night.
A day later, he was greeted warmly by Giants' visiting clubhouse manager Harvey Hodgerney - with a large bowl of cracked Dungeness crab, one of his favorite meals.
Benitez hasn't saved a game since May 22 with the Giants. On May 29, he had two balks in the 12th inning against the Mets at Shea Stadium, a 5-4 comeback win by New York. He balked in the tying run and gave up Carlos Delgado's game-winning home run.
Before that, Benitez had blamed the San Francisco hitters for not scoring enough runs. Such behavior has made him unpopular with fans, too. Benitez was ready to take a beating from the crowd.
``What do you think?'' he asked about being booed. ``It's all right. I don't worry about this.''
He also planned to talk to his former teammates.
``I don't have to hide. I will talk to these guys,'' Benitez said.
San Francisco acquired reliever Randy Messenger in the trade and the Giants are still paying the bulk of Benitez's salary for this year - all but $333,333 of the $7.6 million he's due.
Benitez was 0-3 with nine saves in 11 chances and a 4.67 ERA for the Giants before the swap back to his former club. He had been getting booed at San Francisco's waterfront ballpark, as he was last season.
When asked if he would have any emotions Friday night playing in his former stadium, Benitez said: ``No, why? I'm cool.
``Everybody on the team saw me working hard,'' Benitez added. ``What happened happened. I'm not upset. That's part of baseball. It's like when you go to the store and buy new clothes and throw away the old clothes. You wear the new clothes and get comfortable in the new clothes. You put the old clothes in the closet and can later go put the old clothes back on.
``What you go through makes you better. You have to give yourself time.''
Benitez, a two-time All-Star who ranks eighth among active closers with 289 career saves, struggled last season. He blew eight of his 25 save opportunities and questions about his health and his high salary made trading him difficult.
The Giants had considered Brian Wilson a candidate to be their closer of the future, and Benitez had to prove to the club during spring training that he was healthy and could be an effective closer again.
Benitez missed 96 games in 2005 in his first season with the Giants following surgery to reattach two torn hamstring tendons to the pelvis. He admits now he probably came back to soon that year. Benitez was slowed last year by arthritic knees.
He worked hard to drop weight this past offseason and recently got down to a trim 250 pounds, looking as fit as he has in years. He cut out alcohol, doesn't eat late at night and is committed to salads and protein shakes.
Benitez also munched on egg whites before Friday's game. He used a plastic sweat suit recommended by Bonds during his workouts to help with the weight-loss process.
Benitez and Bonds hugged and laughed by the batting cage before the game.
At the time he was traded, Giants general manager Brian Sabean had been taking a lot of heat about why he hadn't dealt the struggling right-hander sooner. The Giants had been speaking to Florida about a potential deal dating back to the winter meetings in December.
``He's been hounded by the media, the fans and some teammates,'' Sabean said. ``To think he's the root of our problems the last couple of years is ridiculous.''
Benitez said Friday he appreciated the show of support.
``Whatever Sabean said, I respect, man,'' Benitez said. ``I don't like to leave like that. I like to do what I have to do.''
 

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