Beltran: Mets Are ‘Team To Beat’

A few notes this morning:

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Benson is about 60-70 percent healthy, which is what both director of pro scouting Chuck LaMar and Benson have said.

But that doesn’t mean he necessarily will; in fact, Benson sounds very passionate about being a Phillie.

“The goal is always opening day. But realistically, do I think I’ll be able to make it? I don’t know. I’ve learned the shoulder has a mind of its own.

“I’m hoping it works out here. You have a great defense and a great offense here. For me, it’s perfect. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because I wanted to be here.”

He went into his pitch cabinet (“I took the second half off in ’03 and ever since then, my velocity’s gone down every year. My slider turned into [more of a] curveball; I had to come up with a cutter to make up for my slider.”) and his buxom wife, Anna, who makes headlines by being outspoken (“It’s not a big deal. She has fun with it. I have fun with it. A lot of the teammates and the wives are like, ‘You’re not like what they write about you.’ “).

Benson is costing the Phillies $100K at the moment, but if he gets 30 starts, he’d cost $5MM this year. He’s a great gamble.

Members of the media and Phillies players played a prank on the young righthander, telling him he’d been traded to Japan. Kendrick bought into it, trying to answer questions as civil as possible while being completely confused. The clubhouse’s reaction when revealing the prank is priceless.

“Let me tell you this: Without [Johan] Santana, we felt as a team we have a chance to win in our division. With him now, I have no doubt that we’re going to win in our division. I have no doubt in that. We’ve got what it takes. We have good chemistry as a team. He fits great because he’s a great guy. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. Who doesn’t want to have him on any ball club? Without him last year, we did good until the end of the season. So this year, to Jimmy Rollins, we are the team to beat.”

Beltran doesn’t usually talk, like Rollins, who last year labeled the Phils as the “team to beat” and came through on his words, leading the Phils to their first division championship since 1993 and winning the National League MVP award.

“He excelled,” said Mets closer Billy Wagner about Rollins. “It takes a special person to be able to do that. You can’t say that and then not start off well, or things don’t go your way and you go, ‘Well, that’s not what I meant.’ Now you have to lead.”

And Beltran has to lead too. You can’t say those big words, then shy away. As it stands, Beltran is missing the start of Grapefruit League play because of surgery on both knees.

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