Benson adjusting to bullpen role

Benson adjusting to bullpen role

CHICAGO -- Kris Benson made his Major League debut more than 10 years ago, against a Cubs lineup built around Sammy Sosa and Mark Grace, in a Three Rivers Stadium that no longer exists.

That was one of 269 appearances before Benson came out of the bullpen. The first overall pick in the 1996 First-Year Player Draft had never made a relief appearance in his professional career until last week in Oakland.

Matt Holliday, the first batter Benson faced, drilled a three-run home run. Relief pitchers swear by their routines, and Benson will have to figure one out.

"This is all a learning experience to me," Benson said. "I'm just kind of feeling it out, and [I'll] just have to see what works the best."

In long relief, Benson knows he will be pitching when things are going either good or bad. Benson gave the Rangers three innings in Thursday's 9-4 loss and was charged with two runs on five hits.

"We certainly have to figure out what it takes for him to get ready to come in the ballgame," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We documented what he did down there [Thursday]. We'll see if that's the route we have to go all the time."

Benson threw long toss before Thursday's game and warmed up with 75 percent effort the inning before he entered, but he still didn't feel loose.

"It took me that whole first inning [to] get into the flow of the game," Benson said. "Once I was able to get back out there and take some warmups, the last two innings were fine."

Converting to a relief role is one way for a starting pitcher to prolong his career. Benson, who has spent time on the disabled list with right elbow tendinitis this season, isn't interested in that, but he'll remain on call.

"Right now we just got to make sure we monitor him properly [and] don't get carried away with the use, because [you] never know what might happen," Washington said. "We might have to throw him back in the rotation."

Patrick Mooney is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.