"I'm done," starting pitcher Kris Benson said by phone, capping a nine-season career that reaches 10 seasons when accounting for time spent on the disabled list.
Benson, plucked by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1996, enjoyed a run of success with the club before Tommy John surgery knocked out his 2001 season. In his first two years in the majors, he had a 3.95 ERA in 414 1/3 innings over 63 starts and seemed well on his way to being a top pitcher. However, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed his age-26 season in 2001. He would struggle with injuries for the rest of his career.
Benson was shipped to the Mets in the middle of the 2004 season for Jose Bautista, who would later go on to slam 54 home runs for the Jays in 2010. Benson moved onto Baltimore in 2006 and then missed two years after a tear in his rotator cuff was discovered during shoulder surgery. He resurfaced briefly for Texas in 2009 and Arizona in 2010, but injuries kept derailing his progress.
“I wanted to make this decision now, rather than go into another season on another minor-league deal," Benson said of deciding to retire. I didn’t want to go through the head games of, ‘Am I going to make the team?’ I don’t mind the pressure. I just don’t want to fall into another situation like I had the last couple years, where I busted my tail getting back and then got hurt again shortly after I made the team.”
Benson retires with a 70-75 record and a 4.42 ERA in 200 starts and six relief appearances. His decision to retire came to a head in August on a rehab start in Triple-A, where he exhibited the same symptoms that got him placed on the disabled list in the first place.
“The last thing I wanted was to have my career end with a trainer walking me off the mound. I basically gutted out those last 12 pitches [in Triple-A]," Benson said. "I saw a couple doctors, and they told me, ‘You either pitch with the pain, or you don’t.’ I just said, ‘I’ve had six cortisone shots in three months. I don’t think I’m going to do it anymore.’ “So, I just went home. I wanted to enjoy my new house. I haven’t picked up a baseball since.”
Benson is hoping to form his business management company, but will have deferred money from his contract with the Mets headed his way over the next eight years which gives him financial peace of mind and will allow him to spend time with his 12- and 1-year-old son.
-- Evan Brunell