Marlins to change closer Benitez to set-up man

Updated: June 1, 2007, 8:32 PM ET
Associated Press

MILWAUKEE -- Armando Benitez returned to the Florida Marlins on Friday, and the veteran right-hander said he had no problem moving from his customary closer job to a setup role.

Armando Benitez
Benitez

Benitez was the closer for the San Francisco Giants until they sent him to the Marlins Thursday night for reliever Randy Messenger.

"They are bringing me here knowing we have a chance to win," Benitez said before the Marlins played the Milwaukee Brewers Friday night.

"They believe in what I can do," said Benitez, who set a Marlins record with a career-high 47 saves in 2004, his only year in Florida. "Whatever they want to do is fine with me."

Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said Kevin Gregg would continue to be the closer, with Benitez typically pitching the eighth. If Gregg is unavailable, Benitez will close.

"Look at the teams who are winning. It shortens the game," Gonzalez said of having two quality relievers. "I'm all for having those guys at the end of the game."

Benitez was 0-3 with nine saves in 11 chances and a 4.67 ERA for the Giants. He recently upset some of his San Francisco teammates by blaming Giants hitters for not scoring enough runs, and had been getting booed at home, as he was last season.

In his final game with the Giants on Tuesday night, Benitez balked twice in the 12th inning of a 5-4 loss to the New York Mets. On his last pitch, he gave up a game-ending home run to Carlos Delgado.

After the trade was announced Thursday night, Benitez was not in the clubhouse and his locker was cleaned out.

"I understand the fans," he said. "The fans want to see the best closer. Sometimes you don't have your best stuff.

"The fans want to see the team win it," he said. "Hey, they're disappointed. If they boo me when I'm doing good, it kept me working hard. I was trying to do my best. That's more important."

Benitez is owed $5,066,666 from the remainder of his $7.6 million salary this year, of which Florida will pay $333,333 and San Francisco will pay $4,733,333.

Benitez has 289 saves in a major league career that began in 1994. Gonzalez said the trade allows the Marlins' young pitchers to learn from Benitez, and lets them get experience without the pressure of pitching in late innings.

"We've thrown them in the fire as young pitchers and they've done a nice job," Gonzalez said of his young relievers. "Now, they can sit in the bullpen and talk to Armando and gain some experience through those conversations. It's good for them to sit back, watch, pay attention, learn and gain some experience."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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