Notes: Giants' Benitez back on mound

Notes: Giants' Benitez back on mound

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Whether the Giants are showcasing him for a trade or simply getting him ready for the season, Armando Benitez began the long road back on Sunday with one decent inning of relief in his first Major League outing of the spring.

The big right-hander came on in the fifth inning against the Mariners at Scottsdale Stadium, facing four batters, allowing a single and striking out Raul Ibanez, the last hitter he faced, with a high fastball out of the strike zone and apparently above his head.

But no matter, Benitez said he is happy and healthy.

"The best I've felt the last two years, I think," he said after coming out of the Giants' 8-3 victory. "Honestly, I didn't feel like I was healthy. I pushed myself. We're human. We make mistakes. This was my mistake. I didn't feel too good, but my goal was to come into this spring and make sure I was ready."

Benitez blew out his right hamstring one month into the 2005 season and rushed back three months later from surgery to reattach the hamstring to the bone with a pair of titanium screws. It was obviously too soon.

"The doctor told me 'you can't come back so soon and pitch like that. You come in three months. I give you a year and a half,'" Benitez said. "He said he had never heard of that."

Benitez said he paid for the "mistake" dearly. Last year the right knee gave out, ending his season on Sept. 14 and leaving the Giants without a closer. On Sunday, he revealed that he had also screwed up his right shoulder.

"I was using just my arm because I couldn't push off [of his right leg]," he said. "My shoulder got a little bit sore."

Now he's pushing off his leg again and the shoulder is sound, which should be good news for other teams still shopping for a closer. It's also good news for the Giants if they opt to keep Benitez, who took a line drive off the same knee three batters into a Minor League appearance on Tuesday and seemed no worse the wear for it.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Benitez needs the work now and hopes to get him out on the mound every few days with the season opener now a scant three weeks away.

"We want to get him some work down here," Bochy said. "We want to make sure he's ready for the season. He's getting on track and we're going to use him like we normally would at this point."

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The Giants owe Benitez $7 million this year on the final year of the three-year, free-agent contract he signed prior to the 2005 season. But if he stays or goes, Benitez said he's content.

"I'm very happy," Benitez said, a smile beaming from his wide face. "I'm very happy to come back and be with my team again."

Klesko nears return: Ryan Klesko, who has been nursing a strained left oblique muscle, said he's moving forward quickly toward a return to action. "I'm going to hit off the tee [on Monday] and start to throw," he said. "So I'm right on track. Hopefully, in a few days I'll be playing again." Klesko sustained the injury diving for a ball in the outfield during batting practice before last Sunday's game here.

Lincecum's future: Rookie right-hander Tim Lincecum was wondering out loud about his immediate future on Sunday after throwing three innings of shutout two-hit, four-strikeout ball in his second appearance of the spring, a relief slot after Benitez. "It's kind of up in the air," he said. "I'd like to know just like everybody else." Here was Bochy's answer: "We're staying open minded, but it would be a long shot for him to be on this club. If he's not here, there's a good chance he'll be starting at [Triple-A] Fresno." Lincecum was the 10th overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft.

Buy Bonds: Barry Bonds skipped out after two plate appearances as the designated hitter on Sunday: a strikeout looking and a fielder's choice grounder. He'll be back out in left field on Monday against the Cubs at Scottsdale Stadium, Bochy said. "We said before the game we were just going to get him a few at bats [Sunday]," he said. "[Monday] that will be four in a row for him." Bonds is hitting .385 (5-for-13) with two doubles, two homers and six runs batted in.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.