Diamondbacks bypass prospects, tab 35-year-old Kris Benson as fifth starter

Leave a comment

I wondered yesterday why teams give endless chances to washed-up veterans rather than turning to minor leaguers who might actually prove to have some long-term value. My specific example was Russ Ortiz and Ramon Ortiz both being on the Dodgers’ pitching staff despite neither having a decent season since 2004 and I also brought up Sidney Ponson, but the Diamondbacks just reminded me to add Kris Benson to the list.
Benson’s career has been wrecked by injuries rather than simply a lack of ability, but whatever the case he’s 35 years old and hasn’t been an effective major-league pitcher since 2005 or 2006, depending on how much slack you feel like giving on the term “effective.” When not injured he’s spent most of the past couple seasons in the minors, posting ERAs of 5.78 and 5.25.
Yet now that Arizona needs a fifth starter for the first time, they announced that Benson will join the rotation Saturday against the Padres. Asked why the Diamondbacks chose Benson, manager A.J. Hinch said: “We know he can handle the big leagues being poised and used to pitching up at this level for so long.” Benson’s last Quality Start came in 2006 and even then he had a 4.82 ERA.
According to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com “Benson outpitched Billy Buckner and Kevin Mulvey for the spot,” which of course was exactly my point from yesterday. Buckner and Mulvey certainly aren’t great prospects, but they’re reasonably promising 20-something pitchers whose minor-league resumes suggest they can likely be useful in the majors. Why not see what they can do rather than give yet another shot to a 35-year-old who hasn’t been good since Hinch was still a player?

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

Getty Images
8 Comments

I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.