Benson begins shoulder rehab program

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Baltimore Orioles pitcher Kris Benson is making a final, desperate attempt to avoid surgery on his
injured right shoulder with aggressive rehabilitation.

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Following the advice of two of the three medical experts he
consulted, Benson will start a program geared toward easing the
pain from a torn rotator cuff. If successful, it would allow him to
pitch this season.

Benson boarded a flight Wednesday morning for Fort Lauderdale,
where the program will take place.

The decision was made after Dr. James Andrews examined Benson's
shoulder Monday afternoon in Birmingham, Ala. and recommended that
he delay surgery. It was the same suggestion made by Orioles
orthopedic specialist Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, but later contradicted
by New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek.

"There are a number of pitchers that have this type of injury
and successfully rehab from it," said Jim Duquette, the Orioles'
vice president of baseball operations. "Our thinking all along was
that this needed to be the case."

Benson was 11-12 with a 4.82 ERA in 30 starts last season, his
first with the Orioles after being acquired from the Mets for
pitchers Jorge Julio and John Maine. He pitched with the tear all
year, but apparently began experiencing greater discomfort over the

"We certainly would have liked to have known sooner if it was
bothering him back three months ago, but we didn't have that
indication from the exit physical and from speaking with him,"
Duquette said. "It really wasn't until he started his long toss
and his actual training program to get started for spring

"There is a tear. It's an undisputed fact," said Benson's
agent, Gregg Clifton. "It's significant enough, but Dr. Andrews
gave Kris a small amount of hope that surgery still can be avoided.
... Obviously, Kris is kind of searching for the needle in the
haystack and hoping for anything to avoid surgery and be able to
participate this season."

The rehab program most likely will last more than a month. If
Benson opts to have surgery, it's doubtful he could pitch this

"It takes anywhere from four to six weeks to do the
strengthening program and to be able to start the throwing
program," said Mike Flanagan, the Orioles executive vice president
of baseball operations. "Then the question is how long the
throwing program will last. There's a lot of variables.

"It's day-to-day progress with a rehab," Flanagan continued.
"We'll monitor it closely."

Clifton acknowledged that he's not optimistic.

"But from our perspective, when someone the magnitude of Dr.
Andrews makes a suggestion, you take it very seriously. Kris is
taking it very seriously. We'll give it our shot and keep our
fingers crossed."