Benson will likely make first minor league start Sunday

After a couple of set-backs that appeared to put him severely behind the curve in his quest to make it back to the big leagues, it sounds like Kris Benson is progressing steadily again. The Phillies just sent word to reporters that the veteran right-hander will likely make his first minor league start on Sunday for Class A Clearwater. I didn't talk to assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. directly, but it sounds like this is a very, very encouraging step. Benson threw 75 pitches today in an extended spring training game, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and striking out 4 while walking 1.

"It was encouraging for him and it was encouraging for us," Amaro said.

Benson was originally expected to contend for a spot in the Phillies rotation in may. But after a bout with biceps tendinitis and a strained groin, he seemed stuck in a perpetual "day-to-day" state. There's no word on when he might be ready to seriously contend for a major league start. A lot will depend on Sunday, I'm sure.

By the way, Amaro said Benson's velocity was between 86 and 90 miles an hour, which is better than it has been. Previously, he'd been topping out at 88 miles an hour.

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Other notes from pre-game interviews. . .

Carlos Ruiz is starting at catcher, while Geoff Jenkins moves back to right field. Chris Coste and So Taguchi both started and played well last night.

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