02/12/07 7:49 PM ET
Benitez wants to show he still has it
Giants closer says he's near 100 percent and ready for '07
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
But on April 27, 2005, Benitez incurred the hamstring injury running to first base at AT&T Park attempting to make the final play of a 6-5 victory over the Padres. Benitez tore a pair of tendons in his right hamstring on the play. During the ensuing surgery, both tendons had to be reattached to the bone with screws. He was immediately projected to miss four months, if not the remainder of the season."People think it wasn't so bad," Benitez said. "But they can believe what they want to believe. Not too many people would've been able to come back so soon from my situation. I had to lie flat on my back for the first five weeks after the surgery. I could not move. I really pushed myself to come back, but I made a mistake." He was back in action that Aug. 18 and recorded 15 of his 19 saves from that point on. But a pair of blown saves in September -- to the Padres at home and to the Dodgers in Los Angeles -- blunted the Giants' belated run at the National League West title. And last year matters were even worse. He blew eight of 25 save opportunities, and as the season deteriorated for Benitez and the Giants, the right-hander lashed out at teammates, at former manager Felipe Alou and at the media. After a string of three blown saves in as many opportunities after the All-Star break, Sabean announced that the team would seek other options. Sabean called the problem then a matter of pitch location. Benitez says now that it was a matter of health, and that made him angry and frustrated. "When I came back in 2005 I was at about 65 percent," Benitez said. "They needed me on the mound. I tried to do my best. The knee began hurting because my hamstring was really not healed. But doing it I hurt both of my knees. So I got upset. What do you think? You know who you are. You know what you can do in the game. "That's what the fans want to see, your teammates want to see and the owner wants to see. That's what everyone wants to see. If you can't do that, you feel bad. I felt bad. I just couldn't do my job. You can't go to the mound on one leg. You need to use both legs. You need to be strong." Benitez says he feels strong now, which is a good thing. He'll have a new manager in Bruce Bochy and a clean slate. But the chances are running out, he also knows. "I want to show the fans, the team and management what Armando is like when he's pitching healthy," he said.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.