Benitez out at least four months

Benitez out at least four months

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants lost Armando Benitez for at least the next four months with a pair of torn tendons in his right hamstring, head trainer Stan Conte said during a conference call early Wednesday evening.

The right-handed reliever, who was signed as a free agent this past offseason for three years at $21.5 million, will undergo surgery Tuesday to have the tendons reattached to the bone. It is questionable that he will return this season. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list before the Giants defeated the Padres, 10-3, at SBC Park.

The surgery is expected to be performed by Giants team physician Ken Akizuki and Michael Dillingham, a doctor who works for the NFL's 49ers and has had experience with these kind of injuries, Conte said.

"This is a shock," said Giants general manager Brian Sabean, who was also on the conference call. "It hasn't really sunk in yet. We didn't have our heads in the sand [Tuesday] night when this happened. But we didn't expect this to be the outcome, either."

Benitez incurred the injury covering first base on the final play of Tuesday night's 6-5 victory over the Padres. Replays showed that Benitez was short of the bag when he began to limp. He took the throw from first baseman J.T. Snow, who made a diving stop of a Geoff Blum grounder, and crossed the bag to record the out.

Benitez then had to be helped off the field.

This is the latest serious injury sustained by a regular who was counted on heavily by the Giants this season. Barry Bonds, 40, is on the disabled list indefinitely after undergoing surgery twice since the end of January to repair meniscus in his right knee.

Moises Alou, the 38-year-old son of manager Felipe Alou, had just returned Friday night after missing two weeks with a strained right calf, a recurring injury that has plagued him in recent years. Alou suffered the injury on Opening Day.

"Barry's out, Alou's just come back and now Benitez," Sabean said. "It's been as daunting as any year we've started."

Conte said that there are three tendons attaching the hamstring to the bone and that Benitez had torn two of them. The surgery would involve drilling screws into the bone and reattaching the tendon, he said, adding that he expected the 32-year-old Benitez to fully recover.

The injury and surgery is similar to what Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. experienced last season.

"Benitez is like [Bonds]," manager Alou said before the extent of the injury was announced. "He's a big guy [240 pounds] and he needs to be completely healed to play at full strength. I'm not down because of Benitez -- it's a serious loss, but we have enough [good players] to win."

Benitez, who saved 47 games for the Florida Marlins last season, has been erratic so far for the Giants. He is 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in eight appearances with four saves and two blown saves.

In the Tuesday game alone, he came in with a runner on and none out in the eighth inning to face pinch-hitter Phil Nevin with the Giants leading, 5-3. Three pitches later, Nevin homered to tie the score. After the Giants took the lead again during the bottom of the inning, the Padres had the tying run on second with two out in ninth when Snow dove to snare Blum's shot down the line. Benitez was credited with the victory.

Rookie reliever Scott Munter was called up from Triple-A Fresno earlier in the day to replace Benitez on the roster.

Sabean said Wednesday that the Giants will have to replace Benitez in the closer role internally.

"At this time of the year, there's not much more we can do than that," he said.

Asked if there was any chance of going out into the market and finding a closer at this point, Sabean added: "You guys have been around long enough to answer that. Slim and none."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for reporter Rich Draper contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.