Sports Outside the Beltway

Surgery on Hold; Benson to Rehab his Shoulder

As reported in the Baltimore Sun today:

Orioles pitcher Kris Benson will put off surgery to repair his torn right rotator cuff and instead undergo a rehabilitation process, which could last a month, in a final attempt to pitch in 2007, a baseball source said last night.

Dr. James Andrews examined Benson’s shoulder yesterday in Birmingham, Ala. It was the third opinion sought by the Orioles’ pitcher. A member of the New York Mets’ medical staff recently recommended that Benson have surgery, but Andrews provided a small glimmer of hope.

If the rehab doesn’t change the condition of Benson’s shoulder, he will have the surgery and most likely miss the season. Waiting a few more weeks wouldn’t delay his return.

Benson’s desperation to pitch in 2007 is in an effort to either get his option for 2008 picked up or to get a free agent contract at season’s end when his current deal expires. The temptation is to call it guts or heart or courage. In reality if his salary for 2008 was guaranteed, Benson would heed the sagacious opinions of the previous two doctor’s who said get it fixed surgically and then rehabbed at his leisure. Other pitchers have tried to baby shoulders with comparable damage, including Benson’s former teammate Pedro Martinez. While with the Red Sox, the damage to Martinez’ shoulder was first detected, and rather than sit and have surgery, he opted for rehab and a lighter workload. That decision caught up with him last season. Martinez’ torn labrum required surgery late last season, and he is currently rehabbing in the hopes of returning this season.

Dr. Andrews is not ruling out surgery, just suggesting that rehab might heal Benson’s arm sufficiently to pitch this season. The question Benson must answer is whether he feels it is wise to forgo a more certain course of recovery for the short term gain of possibly pitching this season. It is not as if the loss of Benson doomed Baltimore’s AL East Title chances. His injury meant more innings at a little below league average than slightly above league average. Therefore the only people who stand to gain or lose with Benson’s attempts to pitch this season are Benson himself and his family. The decision to pitch is choosing short term gain and long term loss.

Benson has often found the center of attention because of the outrageous behavior of his wife, Anna. Anna Benson, who spends most of her time involved in her modeling career and humanitarian activities, sparked controversy by comments made to Howard Stern about how she would repay her husband if he ever cheated on her.

Framed in light of the contract set to expire at season’s end and the turmoil that has been a near constant distraction during his professional playing career, Benson’s actions appear more and more like a man struggling to stay in a game that might pass him by if he has surgery and takes the four to five months necessary to rehab. It is a stark contrast to the decision made by Octavio Dotel who in 2005 decided to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair his injured elbow and risk free agency coming off major arm surgery the following season. Dotel this offseason signed a lucrative contract with the Kansas City Royals.

Via David Pinto at Baseball Musings.

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