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Hamstring to sideline Benitez four months

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants closer Armando Benitez is expected to miss four months after tearing his hamstring while covering first base.

San Francisco placed Benitez on the 15-day disabled list
Wednesday, a day after his injury, but trainer Stan Conte said the
reliever would be out for much longer after an MRI revealed that he
tore his right hamstring tendons.

"The tear is complete with two of the three tendons that attach
to his pelvis," Conte said. "This will require surgery to repair.
This will take four months until he's competitive again."

Benitez is scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday to reattach the
tendons to the bone, and Conte does not believe this injury is
career-threatening. The "outcome has been good or better with a
pitcher," Conte said.

The injury occurred when Benitez broke to cover first base after
San Diego's Geoff Blum hit a sharp grounder down the line to end
San Francisco's 6-5 win Tuesday night. First baseman J.T. Snow dove
to his left to snare the ball and flipped to Benitez, and the
6-foot-4, 240-pound pitcher began to favor the hamstring a step or
two before reaching the base. He had to be helped off the field.

Conte said the injury is similar to the hamstring tear that
sidelined Cincinnati outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. for the final three
months last season and somewhat similar to the groin injury
suffered earlier this month by Chicago Cubs shortstop Nomar
Garciaparra.

The loss of Benitez is a big blow for the Giants, who finally
had a reliable closer this season to replace Robb Nen, who retired
this spring after failing to come back from a series of shoulder
operations.

"This is shocking news. It's probably more serious than I was
thinking," general manager Brian Sabean said. "This time of year
the only thing you can do is try to address it internally. Every
year it seems like we're challenged by something. Maybe the law of
averages, you can't escape stuff like this happening. It's probably
been as daunting as any season we've started."

Conte said it will be difficult for Benitez to do much activity
at first following the surgery, and there is concern that someone
his size will have a hard time staying in shape.

"The primary objective is to make sure the surgery is
protected," Conte said. "I think there will be plenty of time in
the rehab process to control any kind of conditioning issues."

Manager Felipe Alou will now rely on closer by committee, and he
insists he isn't too concerned with the age of his team being a
problem -- even though 40-year-old slugger Barry Bonds is sidelined
recovering from knee surgery and right fielder Moises Alou already
missed time with a right calf strain.

"You lose Bonds, Mo for two weeks and the closer, but I know in
that room we have enough to win games," Alou said.

The Giants used several pitchers to fill in for Nen last season,
including Matt Herges and then converted Dustin Hermanson from
starter to closer late in the year. Herges and Jeff Fassero will be
called upon to close games now.

"This is more bleeding we have to stop," Alou said. "Last
year we converted one of the starters and he saved our life. Right
now, we don't have a guy like that who's been a closer."

The 32-year-old Benitez signed a $21.5 million, three-year
contract Nov. 30, giving the club a closer with the fourth best
regular-season career save percentage.

Last year, Benitez bounced back from a subpar 2003 season to
save an NL-best 47 games in 51 chances and lead major league
relievers with a 1.29 ERA for the Florida Marlins. He struck out 62
batters in 69 2-3 innings pitched.

"Everybody else is healthy as can be," Herges said. "It's too
bad about Mando, but until he comes out we'll try to hold the fort
down for him, like we did for Robb Nen a couple years ago."

Benitez (1-1), the powerful right-hander, blew his second save
in six chances but got the win Tuesday.

The Giants recalled right-hander Scott Munter from Triple-A
Fresno to take Benitez's roster spot. Also, outfielder Tony Torcato
was outrighted to Fresno five days after being designated for
assignment.