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Notes: Arthritis flareups curbing Benitez

Notes: Arthritis curbing Benitez

CHICAGO -- Giants closer Armando Benitez won't pitch for the next few days because of arthritis flareups in both knees, a condition he's been battling for many years.

"After the game yesterday he complained about them, so we're going to give him a couple of days' rest," said head athletic trainer Stan Conte. "He feels he doesn't have any power when he pushes off."

Benitez's knees and his pitches took a beating Saturday in the ninth inning when he allowed a homer, single and walk to the Cubs, forcing veteran Mike Stanton to preserve the game.

"His knees are barking," said manager Felipe Alou. "You could see his fastballs going uphill [Saturday], and he was making an effort to go downhill. We'll see what two or three days off will do for him."

The 39-year-old Stanton will serve as the closer, and Alou has no qualms about using the left-hander, who is 2-1 with four saves and a 4.38 ERA in 16 outings for the Giants since being acquired July 28 from Washington.

"He's got a great curveball that's not easy to hit out of the ballpark," said Alou. "He's quite a man on the team. That guy can pitch for another few years. He doesn't pitch with much effort and doesn't waste a lot of energy."

Stanton also sports a mean pickoff move to first base, as he showed Saturday in nailing Ryan Theriot for the second out of the ninth before striking out Ronny Cedeno to end the game.

Benitez, 4-2 overall with a 3.52 ERA and 17 saves along with eight blown saves, has rarely been fully healthy since joining the Giants before the 2005 season. He tore hamstrings last year, missing 4 1/2 months, and was on the disabled list to start this season with left knee bursitis.

"We've treated him through the two years he's been here," said Conte. "With arthritis, you can't really fix it, it's wear and tear. Once the tire's bald, you can't do too much about it."

Benitez has been given lubricating injections to ease movement along with anti-inflammatory drugs, but Conte indicated rest will help the most.

Matheny update: Conte said Giants catcher Mike Matheny, recovering from concussion symptoms at his home near St. Louis, is still showing very gradual improvement.

But the Giants medical staff, along with assistance from a variety of doctors -- including concussion expert Dr. Mickey Collins from Pittsburgh -- are collecting massive amounts of data on not only Matheny's at-bats over the past few years but digging deeper into injuries in baseball as a whole.

Matheny suffered a concussion May 31 in Florida, but a few days earlier had received several blows on the head from foul tips while also being smacked by a bat's backswing, something the catcher never recalled.

"He actually got hit three times in that game," said Conte. "And then, after the day off, he got that last foul tip."

Conte's staff and others are also checking injuries in the Minor Leagues to tabulate recurrences of different problems.

Ups and downs: Third baseman Pedro Feliz is the ultimate streaky hitter, and fans ride him hard when he's slumping -- as they did during his recent 3-for-36 dry spell at the plate.

But look at his numbers: He has a career-high 86 RBIs, has appeared in a team-high 135 games and is only the 10th Giants player in history to post three consecutive seasons of at least 20 homers and 80 RBIs.

Take that, detractors.

Feliz has -- it's predictable -- reignited his offense lately, hitting .278 with eight RBIs in his last eight games with five doubles and a homer, heading into Sunday.

"I don't worry -- it just makes it worse," he said of his periodic downturns. "Every month is the same, and I always try my best. I don't worry about the first five months of the season or the last. From the first game to the last it's the same."

That mental steadiness has kept Feliz immune from criticism, for he says he gives 100 percent for about three hours a game and never gets caught up in stats or errors.

As for playing 1,210 2/3 innings this year -- all but 38 of his team's frames -- Feliz says there's no hint of tiredness.

"My bat doesn't feel heavy," he said.

Coming up: Right-hander Brad Hennessey (5-4, 3.70) faces Cincinnati on Monday night at Great American Ball Park in the opener of a three-game series. Hennessey comes off a 5-3 loss at Atlanta, where he gave up five runs over 5 1/3 frames. The Reds will feature right-hander Aaron Harang (13-10, 3.75).

Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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