Notes: Benitez walking unaided

Notes: Benitez walking unaided

SAN FRANCISCO -- He may pitch again this season, or not, but the mere sight of relief pitcher Armando Benitez walking -- not limping, not on crutches -- through the Giants clubhouse Wednesday was cheerful news.

After tearing his hamstring and undergoing a two-hour operation to reattach the right leg tendons to the pelvic bone on May 3, the Giants are surprised the big man looks so good.

Only a few weeks ago, the closer's right leg was strapped to a wheeled contraption so he could be mobile, and he even tossed pitches to keep his arm strong.

Benitez, injured when running to first base against San Diego on April 26, is "way ahead of the curve and has worked his tail off," said trainer Stan Conte. "He has done tremendous on his rehab."

The 32-year-old pitcher, who led the National League with 47 saves for Florida last year, underwent a relatively new procedure performed by team orthopedist Ken Akizuki and 49ers physician Michael Dillingham, so information on the healing process is guarded.

"He's not bulletproof, but the most worrisome part is over," said Conte. "It's not completely healed yet. The real unknown is, if he plays in four months, he still has to run to first."

Manager Felipe Alou said it was pretty obvious what was troubling the Giants recently -- losing 10 of 11 games, including an eight-game losing streak -- and that having Benitez and slugger Barry Bonds out is only part of the equation.

"You tell me if having our best player and closer out if we're still the same team," said Alou. "But we still have problems with the offense, the defense, the starting pitching and the bullpen."

Sitting this one out: Shortstop Omar Vizquel and outfielder Marquis Grissom weren't expected to play Wednesday night against the Royals, with Vizquel still recovering from having a wisdom tooth pulled Monday and Grissom recently off the disabled list.

Alou said he didn't want to take a chance on the 38-year-old Grissom's health under wet conditions after the veteran suffered a knee contusion and was dealing with a chronically sore left hamstring.

Grissom will probably play Thursday afternoon.

Vizquel, meantime, visited with 250 students from McKinley Middle School in Redwood City and answered questions about life in the big leagues in both English and Spanish.

Brower goes longer? Relief pitcher Jim Brower was a star long reliever and spot starter last season, but for a variety of reasons, he's been a short man this year -- to his detriment.

Brower has a 7.23 ERA -- 15 earned runs over 18 2/3 innings -- in his last 18 appearances, and the Giants want to return him to his comfort zone.

The right-hander worked a season-high 2 2/3 frames Tuesday night vs. Kansas City, and Alou wants to stretch him out.

"We want to give him a definite job, other than to have him pitch the eighth inning, ninth inning, sixth inning. He looked good last night, doing what he did."

Demotion? No, said the manager.

"We have a setup guy -- the Hawk [LaTroy Hawkins] is here now."

On deck: Giants lefty Noah Lowry hopes to rebound from a poor outing when he faces the Cleveland Indians on Thursday afternoon at SBC Park in Interleague Play.

Last Saturday against the Mets, he lasted only 4 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits and four runs in a 5-1 defeat. Lowry has been in a semi-funk this season, sporting a 2-6 record and 5.57 ERA.

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