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Bucs hurler convinced he'll be moved

PITTSBURGH -- Kris Benson left the Pittsburgh Pirates'
clubhouse for perhaps the last time Thursday, convinced he'll be
traded by Saturday.

Could he be headed to Queens?

ESPN's Peter Gammons reported Thursday night that the Mets and Pirates are in serious discussions about a deal that would send Benson to New York in exchange for third baseman Ty Wigginton, right-handed pitching prospect Matt Peterson and a minor leaguer, who likely would come from the White Sox, who apparently want to help the Mets beat the AL Central rival Twins to Benson.

While nothing has been finalized, sources tell Gammons that there is a good chance the deal could be completed before Saturday's trade deadline.

Earlier Thursday, Benson sounded as if he knew he'd made his last start for the Pirates.

"I know [a trade]'s going to happen, it's just a matter of when and
where," Benson said. "Right now, the team isn't telling me anything."

Minnesota also has aggressively pursued Benson,
who could be the most prized starting pitcher available before
Saturday's deadline if Arizona doesn't deal Randy Johnson.

Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield's patience could be a
sign he is waiting to see if the Diamondbacks move Johnson to the
New York Yankees, which, in turn, might pressure other AL contenders to add pitching. Littlefield did not accompany the
Pirates on their weekend trip to Milwaukee following a 3-2 loss
Thursday afternoon to Atlanta, but did meet afterward behind closed
doors with manager Lloyd McClendon.

At the same time, Littlefield might be hoping he can get more
for Benson should Johnson not be traded and Benson is still
available as the 4 p.m. deadline approaches Saturday.

Littlefield has suggested the Pirates might keep Benson (8-8,
4.22 ERA), but the right-hander dismissed that by saying the team
has made no effort to re-sign him. The Pirates would get nothing
for him if he signs with another team as a free agent during the
offseason.

Despite Benson's recent success -- he has pitched into the
seventh inning in all but one of his last dozen starts -- some teams
may be reluctant to deal away prospects for a pitcher with no prior
pennant race experience. The Pirates have had a losing record every
season since drafting Benson in 1996, and he's below .500 (43-49)
for his career.

"Right now, I don't know what to think," Benson said.

Benson is scheduled to start Saturday night in Milwaukee -- four
hours after the deadline.

If Benson is dealt, right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (2-7, 6.69 ERA)
would get his first start since he beat the Astros 7-2 on June 23.