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Orioles' Benson Hopes To Avoid Surgery

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Kris Benson is trying to avoid surgery on his injured right shoulder with aggressive rehabilitation.

Following the advice of two of the three medical experts he consulted, Benson will start a program geared toward easing the pain from a torn rotator cuff. If successful, it would allow him to pitch this season.

Benson boarded a flight Wednesday morning for Fort Lauderdale, where the program will take place.

"It feels fine," he said. "Basically, it's what it is. It's sore in certain spots, certain angles, certain positions I put my arm in. It's not like I walk around and I'm hurting all around. It's just a matter of baseball activities are a little bit of a problem.

"Right now, I'm just happy to be down here, glad to be with Richie (Bancells) and his training staff. I'll let them take a look at it over the next few weeks and see what they can do and get this problem solved."

The decision was made after Dr. James Andrews examined Benson's shoulder Monday afternoon in Birmingham, Ala. and recommended that he delay surgery. It was the same suggestion made by Orioles orthopedic specialist Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, but later contradicted by New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek.

"There are a number of pitchers that have this type of injury and successfully rehab from it," said Jim Duquette, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations. "Our thinking all along was that this needed to be the case."

Benson was 11-12 with a 4.82 ERA in 30 starts last season, his first with the Orioles after being acquired from the Mets for pitchers Jorge Julio and John Maine. He pitched with the tear all year, but apparently began experiencing greater discomfort over the winter.

"We certainly would have liked to have known sooner if it was bothering him back three months ago, but we didn't have that indication from the exit physical and from speaking with him," Duquette said. "It really wasn't until he started his long toss and his actual training program to get started for spring training."

"There is a tear. It's an undisputed fact," said Benson's agent, Gregg Clifton. "It's significant enough, but Dr. Andrews gave Kris a small amount of hope that surgery still can be avoided. ... Obviously, Kris is kind of searching for the needle in the haystack and hoping for anything to avoid surgery and be able to participate this season."

The rehab program most likely will last more than a month. If Benson opts to have surgery, it's doubtful he could pitch this season.

"It takes anywhere from four to six weeks to do the strengthening program and to be able to start the throwing program," said Mike Flanagan, the Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations. "Then the question is how long the throwing program will last. There's a lot of variables.

"It's day-to-day progress with a rehab," Flanagan continued. "We'll monitor it closely."

Clifton acknowledged that he's not optimistic.

"But from our perspective, when someone the magnitude of Dr. Andrews makes a suggestion, you take it very seriously," Clifton said. "Kris is taking it very seriously. We'll give it our shot and keep our fingers crossed."