Notes: Benson hoping to avoid surgery

Notes: Benson hoping to avoid surgery

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It's only five days into a four-week rehabilitation program, but Kris Benson can already feel a difference in his pitching shoulder. The right-hander, who was diagnosed with a partially torn right rotator cuff, can feel the range of motion returning and the strength in the back of his shoulder slowly building.

The pain in the front of the shoulder, however, hasn't subsided. And if it doesn't, Benson may not pitch this season. The veteran will resort to season-ending surgery if his rehabilitation program falls short of the desired effects.

"The goal is to pitch with no pain. If I'm pitching with pain, then I really didn't address the issue. Then it'd be a matter of time before it pops up again," he said Tuesday. "Once I do start throwing, if there's still pain, then it's going to get worse, because the reason why it's hurting is because everything is jammed inside the cuff.

"If I still experience that pain then that basically means it's still jammed up inside the cuff and it's moving around on that tear, and it's just not doing the right thing. The strength and the mobility is a good thing, but the pain is the ultimate issue to address."

The tear in his shoulder has been there for the last few years, but Benson said this is the first time he's experienced pain before the season even starts. He had three medical opinions before showing up to Spring Training -- one that called for rehab, one that prescribed surgery and one that suggested he combine the two approaches.

Since arriving in Fort Lauderdale, Benson has been going through a daily program that involves cuff exercises, stretching, electronic stimulation and ice treatment. The 32-year-old said the rehab generally takes two hours of the day, and then he follows up with some running to keep his legs fresh.

Benson and the Orioles will reevaluate his condition at the end of March. If the pain is gone, he'll pick up a baseball and begin his preparatory mound work. If it's still there, he'll likely opt to go under the knife.

Back in stride: Hayden Penn ditched the crutches he was carrying Monday, and said his left ankle felt much better after an extra night's rest. Penn injured himself after Sunday's workout and was unable to participate in baseball drills Monday. If things continue at their current pace, he should be back by the end of the week.

"I was carrying boxes downstairs, and they were kind of slippery," said Penn, explaining how he hurt himself. "That last stair, I tried to anticipate it and just rolled it. Right away, I was like, 'Oh god, here we go.' I'm glad it didn't turn out too bad."

Penn had X-rays and an MRI exam on his injured ankle, but neither test showed anything alarming. Penn returned to throwing drills Tuesday, and he planned to do some extra conditioning work on the stationary bike. Penn, who missed two months after an appendectomy in 2006, initially expected the worst from his injury.

"I was like, 'What happened now?' It was frustrating," he said. "And I've had a history of weak ankles, because I played basketball in high school and I'd always roll it. I was just frustrated, [thinking], 'Aw, here we go.' Luckily, today, it feels good."

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Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said he was relieved to hear Penn wouldn't be out for an extended period of time.

"That was good news," said Perlozzo, who initially expected to throw Penn in relief Friday. "We don't want any of our guys to have an injury that takes too much time out -- and especially a starting pitcher. We'll kind of take him day-to-day, but it looks like he's just going to be a few days back. And then we'll fit him in there."

On the field: The Orioles had a 2-2 tie in their first intrasquad scrimmage of the spring Tuesday. Utility infielder Brandon Fahey had two hits and scored a run. Left fielder Jon Knott hit a double and notched two outfield assists. Outfielder Adam Stern was scratched from the game with a strained right oblique.

"We're just going to be cautious with him," Perlozzo said. "Those obliques can tend to linger on. We don't want to get into a situation where it's a long thing."

Long layoff: John Parrish pitched in Tuesday's intrasquad game, marking his first action since an inning in Instructional League last fall. Parrish had Tommy John reconstruction surgery on his left elbow in 2005, and he has missed most of the last two seasons. Last year, he had surgery to remove scar tissue and repair a bone spur in his elbow.

"I just figured that if I went out there and threw my stuff and threw strikes, everything else would take care of business," said Parrish, who struck out one batter and allowed one hit. "I'm still a little nervous and anxious to get out there. I made sure I gathered myself before I went out there and pitched.

"I took my time in between pitches, and I made sure I gathered myself before I made my next pitch."

Parrish said his time away from the field has led to increased composure on the mound.

"I think it slowed me down a little bit. It made me think about what I needed to do out there," he said. "I've been able to work on staying calm. I basically found out that I wasn't breathing out there. I'd go into the game and not breathe in between pitches, and try to get through the inning as fast as possible instead of having a longer one. "

"I think he was more under control than we've seen in the past," added Perlozzo. "We've seen him real hyper, wild and firing the ball all over the place. I think he's got himself to a point where he's pretty much under control and pitching now, as opposed to throwing. We just need him to stay healthy. He can help us."

Quotable: "It will be if we stay healthy. It might be a dogfight, and it might just come down to what our needs are at that time. We don't know what that is quite yet." -- Perlozzo, on the battle for the last spot on the roster

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.