Benson ready to be the main guy for Bucs

It's great to see Kris Benson starting the season off so well, it looks as though he's fully recovered from his 2001 Tommy John surgery. Last season, he hadn't mentally recovered from the surgery which could be why he started the season 0-4. After watching him pitch earlier this season, he doesn't seem concerned about his arm anymore.

So far this season, in three starts, he's only given up two earned runs while striking out 15. He's gone at least six innings in each start and has thrown at least 95 pitches each time. Benson ranks in the top 10 in ERA (1st), WHIP (7th) and BAA (9th). It definitely seems that he's bounced back and is starting to live up to the lofty expectations that were placed on him when he was chosen with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft.

That's great news for the Pittsburgh Pirates because they need him to carry the bulk of the responsibility for the pitching staff. Benson has always had the talent, but this year seems to have added the composure necessary to be the leader of the rotation. His stuff is excellent. He has a fastball, slider, a good curve and a changeup that he uses very well.

Benson's arm release point is the same for every pitch and that makes it difficult to key in on which pitch he's throwing. His fastball isn't overpowering, but you have to honor it because when it's on it makes his breaking ball harder to hit. At 6-foot-4, he's an intimidating pitcher to face because he's not afraid to throw any pitch.

As long as Benson stays healthy, he could be one of the best pitchers in the NL this season and in the future.

Tony Gwynn, a career .338 hitter with the Padres, is the head baseball coach at San Diego State and an ESPN analyst.