Benson takes next step

Kris Benson didn't offer a definite timetable on when he thinks he will be back to full strength, but he sounded pleased with his performance after throwing 52 pitches of a Class A game in Clearwater last night.

"I was ready to throw more tonight," Benson told Daily News correspondent Scott Purks, who covered the game. "But we have to stick to that dreaded pitch count."

The Benson Experiment has progressed slower than expected thus far, plagued by a couple of set backs that forced the veteran righthander to be shut down. It is still too early to tell whether he'll be in a position to help the Phillies by season's end. The Phillies need to see Benson pitch consistently. They need to see him recover from this start, go further in the next start, and eventually get into a groove where he is throwing every five days without problems. Then, they'll see if he is an upgrade over what they already have.

"The most frustrating part is that I have to wait five more days to throw again," Benson said. "It was emotional before I went out there, and it felt really good to get this one out of the way. Now, I 'm ready for the next start."