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Benson impressive in his final tuneup

Friday, March 31, 2000

By Paul Meyer, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Kris Benson had an impressive tuneup yesterday for his start against Houston in the second game of the season.

The right-hander allowed three hits and no walks in six scoreless innings against Philadelphia in the Pirates' 5-2 win.

"Word's gotten around about him," Kevin Young said. "The opposing team knows when he's on the mound it's not going to be a happy day for them. That's awesome to get that respect so early in his career. He can use that to his advantage."

"Everything felt good," Benson said. "I had more command of my fastball. We worked on that between starts, on keeping it down in the zone. This was definitely a good day to move on into the season. I know I'm looking forward to finally getting this season going."

Benson had a bit of a surprise during the game when he faced outfielder Marlon Byrd, who was a former high school teammate. Byrd bounced out to the mound.

"He was two years behind me," Benson said. "I didn't even know he was here."

Back talk

Jason Christiansen continued to pitch despite back spasms that only bother him when he's not on the mound.

"It doesn't hurt out there," he said, "but standing here I feel it pretty good."

Christiansen is scheduled to pitch again tonight, which will be the first time he has worked in back-to-back games.

"I'll be pretty excited to see how it feels," Christiansen said. "And I'll be interested to see how it feels Saturday when I play catch."

The Pirates anticipate Christiansen being ready for the season. If they decide he's not, Jeff Wallace will come back from the minor-league camp.

Superstitious

Shortstop Pat Meares wasn't one to take chances yesterday. He left the game after the third inning and two at-bats because he knew what happened about this time last year..

"The third at-bat that day, I broke my hand," Meares said. "I told [Gene Lamont], 'Don't let me get that third at-bat [yesterday].' "

Last spring, Meares left the game after fouling off a pitch, which broke the hamate bone in his left hand. Eventually, he needed surgery on his hand and missed most of the season.

Game facts

The Pirates scored twice in the third inning on a double by Chad Hermansen, a single by Jason Kendall and a sacrifice fly by Brian Giles.

They added two runs in the fourth inning on Luis Sojo's single, a triple by Aramis Ramirez and Hermansen's single.

Waiver wire

The Pirates might consider signing right-handed reliever Brad Clontz to a minor-league contract. Clontz, who spent much of last season in the Pirates' bullpen, was released yesterday by Arizona. ... It appears Boston and Tampa Bay, and not Cincinnati, have the most interest in signing Pete Schourek, although Atlanta could be in the running as a long shot.

Morris sits

Second baseman Warren Morris missed his second consecutive game with a bruised left shin. Blood pooled in the area and had to be drained. Trainer Kent Biggerstaff said there doesn't seem to be any infection, and Morris might play tonight.

Rotation

The Pirates have Jason Schmidt, Benson and Francisco Cordova lined up to face Houston in the season-opening series at Three Rivers Stadium. Todd Ritchie gets his first start of the season April 7 at Arizona. Lamont might bring back Schmidt for the second game at Arizona, then give Jimmy Anderson his first start of the season April 9 at Arizona.



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