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Bucs' Van Benschoten ready to start anew

NEW YORK -- Since the Pirates took him with the eighth overall pick of the 2001 draft, John Van Benschoten has spent more time on the disabled list than in the majors.

His career was interrupted in 2005 when he had separate surgeries six months apart on both shoulders. Van Benschoten's numbers in the minor leagues always have been solid, but he was rocked in brief stints with the Pirates in 2004 and '07.

On Sunday, two weeks after his 28th birthday, Van Benschoten again was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis. The right-hander will work out of the bullpen, as the starting rotation already is stocked with younger pitchers.

"I really don't think this is any sort of a last chance," Van Benschoten said. "I think of this as a building block.

"I just turned 28. Big deal. I've seen a bunch of other guys throw until they're 40. My arm feels great. I'm throwing harder than I usually do. I go off my health, my mental state and where I've been in the past five years, and I'd say that right now I'm in the best position for myself."

Van Benschoten earned his latest call-up by going 4-0 with a 1.88 ERA at Indianapolis. A week ago, he and three relievers combined for a one-hitter against Louisville.

For the first time in five years, Van Benschoten's fastball is touching 95 mph.

"I checked the (radar) gun to see if it was a little strong, but they said it was right," Van Benschoten said with a chuckle.


2001 draft
The first 10 picks:
Pick Player, position Team
1. Joe Mauer, C Twins
2. Mark Prior, RHP Cubs
3. Dewon Brazelton, RHP Devil Rays
4. Gavin Floyd, RHP Phillies
5. Mark Teixeira, INF Rangers
6. Josh Karp, RHP Expos
7. Chris Smith, LHP Orioles
8. John Van Benschoten, 1B-P Pirates
9. Colt Griffin, RHP Royals
10. Chris Burke, SS Astros

The extra life and velocity is due in part to small changes Van Benschoten made with his lower body during his delivery.

"Some of it is trusting it and letting go, instead of (feeling) tension throughout the whole thing," Van Benschoten said. "The more loose and relaxed you are, the better results you'll have.

"It's definitely a different feeling and mind-set. It's about trusting it and sticking with it."

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